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Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1919. 



Nortoooti $m 

J. S. Gushing Co. Berwick & Smith Co. 
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 


BEFORE submitting the following pages to the public, 
I have a few words to say, lest my purpose should be mis 
understood. I want to make it clear, once for all, that 
I am not proposing to write anything approaching to a 
memoir of my brother. He has written his memoirs for 
himself. For me to try to improve on them would be 
superfluous, not to say impertinent. Nor do I suggest 
any criticism of his essays which are annexed. These I 
have long thought unanswerable. With their conclusions 
I fully agree. I have no further comment to make. 

I am attempting something quite different from this. I 
am seeking to tell the story of a movement in thought 
which has, for the last century, been developing in my 
family, and which closes with the " Essay on Phase, "which 
ends this volume. 

At this particular juncture of human affairs the ten 
dency is very strong throughout the world to deify the 
democratic dogma, and to look to democracy to accom 
plish pretty promptly some approach to a millennium 
among men. 



This form of belief was strong in my family a century 
ago, and found expression through my grandfather, 
John Quincy Adams, who made the realization thereof 
the work and ambition of his life and who, when he grew 
old, practically gave his life for the cause. As an apostle 
of this doctrine, I take it, he must always be one of the 
most commanding figures in our history, when he comes 
to be fully understood, and as such I give him the chief 
place in my story. He based his hopes of success, in his 
supreme effort, on the belief that God, in whose existence, 
at that period in his life, he did not doubt, favored him, 
and would aid him ; but he died declaring that God had 
abandoned him, and was only kept from confessing 
agnosticism by his love and veneration for his mother, 
which even passed the adoration of Catholics for the Virgin, 
and whose memory was an obstacle which he could not 
surmount, when it came to renouncing his dream of im 
mortality. But so far as he had watched, during a life 
time, the progress of the democrat toward perfection, he 
had little to say in the way of hope. And so he died. 
His life was a tragedy, ending in the Civil War, which 
he had long foreseen approaching, but which he had been 
unable to do anything to avert. Yet the greatest tragedy 
of all for us, and for all optimists who believe in the advent 
of perfection through the influence of democracy, is the 


condition in which we have been left since the close of 
the war. I wish to point out that the Civil War was 
fought, presumably, to enforce the democratic principle 
"of the natural equality of man, and the possession of 
certain rights of which he cannot be deprived by vio 
lence." But, viewed in this light, our country is as much 
in the midst of a social war now as she was when Lincoln 
died. And she is so because she has tried to ignore certain 
fundamental facts which are stronger than democratic 
theories. I suppose that the time has now come when I 
must refer to myself as a part of this family tree, although 
no work of mine has any interest for the present discus 
sion save in so far as something I may have said or written 
may have been suggestive to Henry. Like Henry, I 
inherited a belief in the great democratic dogma, as I 
inherited my pew in the church at Quincy, but, as I have 
explained in my preface, in my early middle life I fell 
into difficulties which only good fortune prevented 
from turning out as tragically for me, as did the election 
of 1828 for my ancestor. In this crisis of my fate I 
learned, as a lawyer and a student of history and of 
economics, to look on man, in the light of the evidence 
of unnumbered centuries, as a pure automaton, who is 
moved along the paths of least resistance by forces over 
which he has no control. In short, I reverted to the pure 


Calvinistic philosophy. As I perceived that the strongest, 
of human passions are fear and greed, I inferred that so 
much and no more might be expected from a pure democ 
racy as might be expected from any automaton so 
actuated. As a forecast I suggested that the first great 
social movement we might expect, should be the advent 
of something resembling a usurer s paradise, to be pres 
ently followed by some such convulsion as has always 
formed a part of such conditions since the beginning of 
time. The precedents are plenty. Lastly, I come to 
Henry s philosophy, which I conceive stands by the side 
of his grandfather s philosophy, as the most interesting 
discussion of the great democratic dogma of modern 
times. Henry has followed very much his grandfather s 
scientific methods, saving so far as those methods turned 
upon religion, and, I apprehend, that Henry has demon 
strated certain facts. The first great fact is that science 
is sunk in such chaos that, from the teachings of science, 
it is impossible to show that the world itself, or man as a 
portion of the world, has been evolved in obedience to 
any single power which might be called a unified creator. 
Its tendency is always to suggest complexity as a motor. 
Therefore democracy must partake of the complexity of 
its infinitely complex creator, and ultimately end in 
chaos. Meanwhile society is steadily undergoing a 


degradation of vital energy. , I will not enter further now 
upon the arguments set forth in the " Letter to Teachers " 
and in Phase. " They speak for themselves. 

Nevertheless, I submit that these collective results, 
being those drawn by one family from their experience 
and study throughout an entire century, and which have 
been reached under an environment the most favorable 
possible toward creating a belief in the great democratic 
dogma, had it been in any degree true, are at least 
worthy of the calm consideration of fair-minded persons. 

When my grandfather, John Quincy Adams, was 
preparing his report on "Weights and Measures," which 
has since his death become so famous in the scientific 
world, he bitterly complained that, at Washington, he 
could find no kindred mind to whom he could confide his 
perplexities and from whom he could draw a stimulant. 
In the same way, when I came to editing the philosophical 
essays of my brother, I acutely felt the lack of a kindly 
scientist, to whom I could go to guard me against my own 
imcompetence and blunders. At length Mr. Ford sug 
gested that I should apply to Professor Bumstead of 
Yale, to whom he intimated that he thought my brother 
had submitted his manuscript years ago, before his 
illness. I greedily seized upon the hint, and Professor 
Bumstead not only read the papers I sent him with the 


utmost kindness, but actually took the trouble to visit 
me at Quincy, and talk my problems over with me after 
dinner, in my own house. I need not say that the pro 
fessor entirely relieved my mind, and that from the day 
of his visit I have had no fear that Henry s meaning shall 
be deformed by my negligence or ignorance. His papers, 
as they are presented, are the accurate expression of 
his thought. As an editor my responsibility ends there. 
And this brings me to my obligation to my old friend 
Mr. Worthington Ford of the Massachusetts Historical 
Society. As the public perhaps knows to its cost, I 
have, during the past quarter of a century, now and then 
published books, and in my typographical and other 
difficulties, I have not hesitated to victimize Mr. Ford 
ruthlessly, to my incapacity or convenience. And Mr. 
Ford has endured the infliction, like a good fellow and a 
good friend to Henry and me. In the present emergency 
I applied to Mr. Ford at once, and with absolute success. 
Without his knowledge of my brother s library, I could 
not have presented the last corrections Henry made in the 
papers which I now submit, nor should I have known 
enough to apply to Professor Bumstead without whom I 
should hardly have dared to venture on my task. But 
Mr. Ford s kindness did not stop here, by any means. He 
it was who knew about, and secured, the last annotations 


which my brother made to his " Letter to Teachers," 
and he it was who has read the proof, and has taken care 
that all Henry s citations of authorities, in various lan 
guages, are correct in the text. More than this : he offered 
to prepare, and has prepared, the index for me. I need 
not say how much better his work is than mine would 
have been, for making an index is an art, which displays 
the book, and Mr. Ford, as all know who know anything, 
is the leading authority on such work, in America if not 
in the world, as I incline very strongly to think. There 
fore, I have consented to accept his kind and generous 
offers, although by so doing I have shirked my own share 
of my task. The public, however, gains. 

And so I conic to my last and, it may be, my chief est 
obligation. When it was proposed that I should publish 
my brother s philosophical remains, with an introduction, 
I lightly assented, not appreciating the gravity of the 
work before me, nor the paucity of time in which to do it. 
For the publishers insisted that I should be ready before 
the year closed, else the book would lose its interest. 
So I began in April, but I soon realized my error. I was 
not writing, in any sense, a biography ; but no author, 
especially no philosopher, can be understood, unless his 
works be laid before the public with such a sketch of his 
environment and his inheritance as shall make intelligible 


the forces social, economic and family, which produced 
him. Least of all could this be done with so complex a 
creature as was my brother Henry. 

And, as I worked, my task grew upon me until I per 
ceived that I could never hope to put Henry in his true 
place in modern intellectual development, unless I went 
back to the foundation of the Republic, if not to the 
Reformation. But to do so would require a bulky volume 
unfit to prefix to such seemingly slender essays as these ; 
besides being foreign to what the publishers wanted. 

Thus hampered, I sought to compress ; and I made sad 
work of it, the more so as I neared my limit of time. In 
June the end came, and I despaired. I realized that I 
could not print what I had produced ; it was disjointed 
and incohesive beyond tolerance. In this dilemma I 
turned to my old friend Mrs. Jones of New York, who, 
besides having for many years advised some of the chief 
publishing houses of New York as to the relative worth of 
proposed manuscripts, and thereby having acquired a 
vast experience in what the public demands, had been 
for half a lifetime intimate with both Henry and me. 

Much perplexed, I laid my manuscript before her, say 
ing, "This fragment is bad; I cannot publish it as it 
stands, but I know not how to better it." What should 
I do? In the kindest way in the world she read my 


failure over more than once, and then she said to me, 
"Your Introduction is bad, I agree, but it may not be 
irreclaimable." And she made me some suggestions. 
These I followed as well as time permitted, and now I 
have it much on my mind to tell any possible future 
readers of this book that, if they shall find, at the end of 
their perusal of the volume, they retain in their minds 
any clear conception of the figures I introduce, or of 
the work they tried to do, or of the part they sought to 
play, in the society in which they lived, they will owe 
their concept far more to her than to me. My grand 
father in especial will, if I shall succeed, live, as it were 
again, but in a new light, because of her sympathy with 
and comprehension of his most fervent ambitions, his 
efforts and his disasters, ending in his death, a martyr 
to his belief in God, education, and science. 



2d September, 1919. 







The Problem 140 

The Solutions 209 




Hence he would surround himself with different defences, 
all of them calculated to repel tactless advances, and on 
these defences few of us cared to intrude. Personally I 
at least, always avoided them. 

One of these was that, when his wife died, in 1884, he 
insisted that he also died to the world. In plain English, 
business bored him, and he threw all such details on us 
vulgarians who were, in his judgment, fit for no better. 
Probably he was right. Also he dearly loved paradox, and 
nothing amused him more than propounding something 
which he knew would startle his guests or rouse in them 
the spirit of contradiction. Some of these paradoxes he 
has related in his " Education." Perhaps his favorite, 
and the one he was always venting on me to see how I 
would take it, was the proposition that the man, especially 
the soldier, is a coarse brute, and the woman intellec 
tually his superior ; whence he deduced his peculiar cult 
of the Virgin, as an ideal of intellect and not of sex, which 
I admit, to me, rather deforms Mont Saint Michel and 
Chartres, when carried to the extreme to which he some 
times carried it. And yet, on the other hand, I appre 
ciated the problem he had in mind, and which he wished to 
discuss, the dissolution of the modern family. On that 
head he was serious, and, so I suppose, are we all. And 
the more we reflect on this subject, the more overshadow- 


ing it grows and the more alarming, not to say terrifying, 
it becomes. At all events to me. 

For my part, I have for the last twenty years at least, 
contemplated the domestic relations, as a lawyer, with 
consternation. Henry, on the whole, was always inclined 
to be impatient with my legal theories, but in this matter 
he would listen to me. "You are by way of being an 
archaeologist," I would say to him, "and I want to know 
whether in all your reading you have ever encountered the 
man who could explain the origin of the family, and how 
it came to cohere? I assume that,long before the ice cap 
shrank from off this northern continent. civilization, such 
as it was, rested on the family, and that it always had so 
rested. All our legal notions, which are of consequence, are 
derived thence. Of that I am sure. Such conceptions, 
for example, as the right to hold private property, the law 
of inheritance, the title to property itself, and more than 
this the right to personal safety as developed in the crim 
inal law. Moreover the family system is the creation of 
the woman rather than that of the man. The man has 
wandered. He has been the soldier, the sailor, the hunter, 
the fisher, the trader, and the herdsman. All of these 
are occupations more or less dangerous, and which exact 
absences from home. The woman, on the contrary, has 
lived at home and has cared for the children. Thus she 


has acted as the social cement, and she has sustained the 
arch on which the social fabric has rested. And now, 
behold, the woman has renounced her job, she is ashamed 
of her sex, and I know not how man can replace her. One 
sex alone cannot vivify a civilization. What do you say ? " 

Henry could answer the question no more than I, but 
he loved to play with it. I never said, by the way, or 
even intimated that the American woman is more of a 
failure than another. My thesis was that all women, 
under modern conditions, ceased automatically to be 
cohesive. Henry sought to amplify the problem. 

He has told us in his memoirs, with what gusto he 
would ask some woman sitting near him, at his own table, 
why the American woman was a failure. He knew 
perfectly well what he wished to imply and the response 
he sought to elicit, but to have explained himself would 
have spoiled his fun. If he had said that, in these latter 
days, the woman has become volatilized so excessively 
that she wanders more freely and constantly than does 
the man, and therefore rather acts as a dissolvent than 
as a cement, he might have been forced into a lecture 
on jurisprudence, which would have been intolerable. 
Therefore he sat quiet, grinned, and listened to what the 
women said. Nor was I ever myself quite sure how 
much he believed in his own paradoxes. He certainly 


believed that the family tie was weakening and that the 
woman was volatilizing ; but touching her intellectual 
superiority it was another matter. He did believe in 
the superior energy of the maternal instinct, but the 
inference presumably was that, w r ith the American woman 
in especial, precisely in proportion as she increased her 
independence, she diminished her weight and her im 
portance in the social scale. She separated into a finite 
atom, and ceased to be the heart of the social unit. 

Most of us would readily have admitted so much, but 
to have stopped there would have spoiled sport, so he 
insisted on being taken quite seriously. He always re 
minded me of the story we boys used to have in college 
about Professor Benjamin Peirce, who was sometimes 
obscure to us youngsters. One day when lecturing at 
the blackboard he casually observed that an equation, 
which he wrote down, "obviously" was the equivalent 
of another, which he proceeded also to write down before 
us. An undergraduate, rather bolder than the rest, or 
possibly more intelligent, having watched with bewilder 
ment, ventured to interrupt with, "I beg pardon, pro 
fessor, but I don t think I quite follow." " Don t you ? " 
said Benny, kindly but rather scornfully. "Can you then 
follow this?" Whereupon he filled two boards with 
formulae. And so it was with Henry. I used to sit and 


listen with amusement almost equal to his own. But 
I think in his " Education" he has carried his joke, at 
times, perhaps a little too far for his own fame. 

For instance, he poses, more or less throughout his 
book, as having been a failure and a disappointed man. 
He was neither the one nor the other, as he knew well. 
He was not a failure, for he succeeded, and succeeded 
brilliantly, in whatever he undertook, where success was 
possible ; and he was not disappointed, for the world 
gave him everything he would take. He would not have 
touched office in any form, had it been offered. He 
valued his liberty and his perfect independence too much 
to part with it at, what he would have thought, so vile 
a price. What he really cared for, as he has intimated 
in his " Education," was social consideration, and this 
he had wherever he chose to live. No man could have 
been more petted than he at Cambridge. I know, for 
I lived with him. But he soon tired of Cambridge be 
cause Cambridge did not socially amuse him. So pretty 
soon after his marriage, he and his wife moved to Wash 
ington, where they lived contentedly until her death ; 
when he began wandering again. Finally he cast anchor 
in Paris, which suited him best of all, I think, as he aged ; 
and it was in these latter years that I was most intimate 
with him. It was in these later years, also, that he be- 


came absorbed in his philosophy wherein he was intensely 
serious, and it is largely because I think that he has hardly 
done justice to this side of his character that I have 
written this preface, to serve as a sort of counterpoise, 
as it were, to his " Education," where he has loved to 
dilate on what he thought more amusing. 

Indeed, to speak the truth, I rather tried to avoid 
his lighter social circle, a disposition which I think he 
noticed and allowed for. And I have even conjectured 
that, because of this tendency of mine, he chose a moment 
when he was in Washington and I in Quincy to send me 
the following essay on "Phase," for my opinion, instead 
of keeping it for one of my visits to his house, and talk 
ing it over with me there. At all events it happened 
that, soon after I had read it and warmly approved it 
and urged him to publish it, he was stricken with the 
illness which incapacitated him for work, and thence 
forward I heard no more of "Phase." I took it for granted 
that he felt unequal to putting "Phase" through the 
press, even were he satisfied with the form in which it 
stood, which I doubted, for Henry stickled for form. 
Therefore in bringing it out as he left it eight years ago, 
I am acting as his trustee, and I have definite ideas of 
what my duty is toward such a trust. 

In the first place I should try to show him, as nearly 


as may be, as he appeared to me in those days when we 
discussed these questions ; though, unhappily, I can give 
to those who never knew him no conception of his sug- 
gestiveness nor of his power. But above all I should 
seek to make others feel, as he always made me feel, 
that he never trifled with what were to both of us serious 
subjects, dealing as they mostly did, either with the lives 
of our predecessors or with our own future. A very 
large part of this time I was busy with sundry books of 
my own which have since appeared, but during another 
portion I was occupied with a memoir of John Quincy 
Adams which I then expected to publish and whose 
chapters I sent to Henry for his revision, as I finished 
them. In reply Henry returned me notes and letters 
which would almost fill a volume by themselves, and 
which gave me abundant food for meditation. The 
upshot of it all was that I decided to suppress the book 
in spite of Henry s remonstrances. 

And now as I look back through the vista of a dozen 
years and in the light of these two essays, I am more 
certain than ever that I was right. I am clear that 
neither Henry nor I, when I was writing those chapters, 
had as yet come to the point at which we could alto 
gether appreciate our ancestor. John Quincy Adams 
was not only a complex man, who stood at least a genera- 


tion ahead of his time, but he was a scientist of the first 
force. The same problems vexed him as he grew old, 
which have vexed Henry and me now for all our later 
lives, and it may well be that my attempt to write my 
grandfather s story may have stimulated Henry to com 
pose these essays. But whether it did or did not, the 
same train of thought and manner of thinking is obvious 
enough in the older and in the younger generation, and 
what is most remarkable is the persistence of the same 
caste of intelligence in the grandfather and grandson, 
the scientific mixed with the political, which made the 
older man reject with horror a scientific theory forced 
upon him by circumstances, which the younger man 
has accepted, if not with approbation, at least with 
resignation, and at so relatively short an interval of time. 

On February 18, 1909, Henry wrote me a very long 
letter, from which I extract the following paragraph, 
only because it expresses the view which I wish to ac 
centuate, and because it bears quite as strongly on Henry s 
then attitude of mind and his subsequent development, 
as it does on that of J. Q. Adams. 

"No one with the intelligence of an average monkey 
will try to tell a story without leading up to its point. 
Your tragedy will be indicated as it is in the lives of us all, 
by the chief failure, which is, in your case, the Presidency. 


To me, the old gentleman s Presidency appears always 
as lurid, which is not the impression made on me by 
his father s defeat, and I see the age of Andrew Jack 
son and the cotton planters much as I see the age of 
the Valois or Honorius, that is, with profound horror." 
And touching the episode of the Presidency, Henry 
was, in my opinion, perfectly right. The Presidency 
was the tragedy of our grandfather s life because it in 
jected into his mind the first doubt as to whether there 
were a God, and whether this life had a purpose. 

That from the moment of his defeat, in 1828, his life 
took the form of a tragedy was through no fault of his, 
but because, by the nature of human affairs, he was forced, 
by bitter experience, to admit that science and educa 
tion offer no solution to our difficulties, but possibly 
on the contrary aggravate them. In short, John Quincy 
Adams, at the opening of his Presidency, fell into the 
vortex of the movement which is now, apparently, only 
culminating, and of which the Reformation itself was 
the prelude. He himself, with the knowledge at hand, 
could not see the relation of cause and effect as we can. 
But he was conscious of the movement, and the uncon 
scious thought stimulated thereby, which harassed him, 
may still be read in his prayers to God for defence against 
his own mind, as he neared the end. 


So far as Henry himself is concerned I take it that in 
1909 when he was writing to me on his grandfather, he 
still took the conventional view of the man, if I may 
call it so. That is to say, he considered that John Quincy 
Adams had been a political man, actuated by ordinary 
political feelings ; whereas I believe him to have been 
an idealistic philosopher who sought with absolute dis 
interestedness to put the Union upon a plane of civiliza 
tion which would have averted the Civil and might have 
altered the complexion of the recent War ; w r ho failed, as 
all men must fail who harbor such a purpose, and who 
almost with his last breath resigned himself and his 
ambitions to fate. To me the picture of the old man 
in his last days, submitting to the destiny which he could 
not avert but which he had long seen approaching, is 
pathetic, and is not unlike that of his grandson who has 
written for our contemplation his regret at the loss of 
religious faith, and his resignation to resistless nature, in 
" Phase." The following extract, therefore, seems to 
me hardly fair. Doubtless Henry would modify it were 
it to be rewritten now. Nevertheless it is to me highly 
suggestive and therefore worth quoting. 

"Yet, setting my own wicked nature aside, this fa 
miliar picture of the old man in the prize ring, much as 
I love it, interests me less than the documents you quote 


to show the steps of degradation that forced him into 
it against his will. Especially the letter to Upham of 
February 2, 1837, which is quite new to me, has given 
me cause for much thought. As I read, between its lines, 
the bitterness of his failure, and the intensity of his re 
gret at having served the Sable Genius of the South, 
are immensely tragic so much so that he shrank from 
realizing its whole meaning even to himself. From the 
year 1828, life took to him the character of tragedy. 
With the same old self-mortification which he and we 
have all, more or less, inherited from Calvinism, I be 
lieve, if he had read what I have written to you about 
his early life, he would have beaten his breast, and cried 
his culp, and begged the forgiveness of his God, al 
though I can t make much of his God anyway." 

I radically dissent from all this now as I did then. 


I AM trying, throughout this Introduction, to present 
the minds of these two powerful and original men, 
the grandfather and the grandson, in their true relation, 
as they stood, often unconsciously, first toward each other, 
and secondly toward that movement of democratic society, 
during the past century, which imposed on them the task 
of attempting to fathom the science and meaning of his 
tory. Plainly my function would be impossible were I 
not to expose in the first place, something of the con 
straining antecedents of both. 

John Quincy Adams appears to me to be the most 
interesting and suggestive personage of the early nine 
teenth century, as my brother Henry is, in his phi 
losophy, certainly one of the most so of the present 
century ; but it is impossible to understand the elder, 
as it is the younger, man unless we begin by appreciat 
ing the education and the circumstances which made 
them what they were. George Washington was the 
model and the master of Adams, and George Washing- 



ton had a constructive theory, which John Quincy Adams 
imbibed and strove to carry into effect, by which he hoped 
to consolidate a vast American community from which 
slavery should be eliminated and which should act as 
a universal pacifier. And Washington s topographical 
theory, on which all else rested, was shortly this : 

In his wanderings in early life in the western wilder 
ness, Washington conceived the principle that a con 
solidated community which should have the energy to 
cohere must be the product of a social system resting 
on converging highways, and, in the case before him, those 
highways must evidently be the Potomac and Ohio 
rivers connected by a canal. The point at which this 
main trunk avenue from west to east met the ocean 
must, from the nature of things, be somewhere near the 
site he afterward chose for the national capital, where 
a great industrial development might easily be stimu 
lated ; and with an energetic industrial development of 
their iron and coal, Maryland and Virginia must auto 
matically become free. Accordingly as early as 1770 
he wrote to Governor Johnson of Maryland as follows : 

" There is the strongest speculative proof in the world 
to me of the immense advantages which Virginia and 
Maryland might derive (and at a very small com 
parative expense) by making the Potomac channel of 


commerce between Great Britain, and that immense 
Territory . . . [the Mississippi Valley] the advantages of 
which are too groat, and too obvious, I should think, to 
become the subject of serious debate, but which, through 
ill-timed parsimony and supineness, may be wrested 
from us and conducted through other channels, . . . How 
difficult it will be to divert it afterward, time only can 
show." 1 

Pushing his plan steadily, Washington in 1775 thought 
himself near success, but when the Revolutionary War 
broke out he had to leave Mount Vernon and take com 
mand of the army. Eight years of fighting only con-^ 
firmed his faith in his plan, and after the peace he had 
reached the unalterable conviction that unless the west 
could be bound to the east by practicable trade routes 
American civilization must sink in chaos. At that par 
ticular moment the most threatening line of cleavage 
lay along the Alleghany Mountains, but no intelligent 
man could doubt that the cohesion between the North 
and South was almost equally precarious. 

With his usual good sense Washington turned to the 
most pressing danger first and also to the one most easily 
to be averted. The chief danger of division which 
Washington foresaw was that the western country would 

1 Washington to Johnson, Congressional Documents, 1st Session, 
1 Jth Congress, Report Xo. 228, p. 2S. 


be repelled by the difficulty of the mountain trails, but 
would be correspondingly attracted toward the Gulf by 
the grade of the water shed. Louisiana then was, of 
course, in foreign hands. Conversely the chief threat 
Washington perceived for the success of his scheme was 
competition by the route of Lake Erie and the Hudson, 
but he expected to enjoy at least a temporary advantage 
by the British occupation of Niagara, and the other 
strategic points on the Lakes, which would give his canal, 
for the time, a monopoly ; and once fixed in a given route 
travel would be measurably stable. 

Having reached these conclusions he obtained a charter 
for his canal from the Virginia legislature in 1785, and 
thereafter the stockholders elected him as their president. 
He knew well enough that his first difficulty would be 
with conflicting jurisdictions and this led him to write 
to a number of gentlemen to meet at Mount Vernon, 
whence came by successive gradations the gathering 
at Annapolis and the convention at Philadelphia, which 
framed the Constitution of the United States. The 
adoption of the Constitution incidentally ruined the 
Potomac Canal, since Washington was, as President of 
the Union, interdicted from private speculations, and 
there was no one to replace him as a canal president in 
Virginia, while his patriotism caused him to open the 


northern route, by obtaining the cession of the posts, 
held by Great Britain, through Jay s treaty. 

Washington s conception of a national capital corre 
sponded in magnificence with his plan for the concentra 
tion of the nation. Built on converging avenues, it 
was to be adapted at once to military, commercial, ad 
ministrative, and educational purposes, for at its heart 
was to be organized the university which was to serve 
as the brain of the corporeal system developed by the 
highways. The university was, in fine, to fix a standard 
of collective thought. In Washington s judgment the 
university could and should be made to be at once the 
most delicate, the most pervasive, and the most ef 
fective instrument for the amalgamation of a united 
people, and he strongly urged it upon Congress. As he 
himself said, his mind had been unable to contemplate 
any plan more likely "to spread systematic ideas through 
all parts of the rising empire" than would such an uni 
versity. And as Washington believed in centralized 
education as essential to any true national life, so doubt 
less he would have advocated collective highway con 
struction had he not himself been directly interested in 
what was to be, according to him, the main artery of 
commerce. Nor did Washington s views stop here. A 
necessary adjunct to the system of development which 


he projected was the rooting out of slavery, for, according 
to him, nothing else could perpetuate the Union, and 
slavery, as Washington admitted to himself, could only l 
be peacefully abolished when it ceased to pay, since "the 
motives which predominate most in human affairs are 
self-love and self-interest." But slavery could only 
cease to pay when Virginia became industrial, and this 
was probably one of the main reasons why Washington 
advocated domestic industry. Much relating to this 
subject occurs in his correspondence. After he became 
President he grew more reticent, but he went to the verge 
of what he thought proper in urging Governor Randolph 
to induce certain Englishmen to set up woollen mills 
within the state. In short, at this stage of American 
social development, or at the time when Adams first 
began to take an intelligent interest in public problems, 
most intelligent Virginians deplored slavery. George 
Mason thought it a curse, degrading the population and 
condemning the community to agriculture and relative 
poverty, while Jefferson and Wyeth were in substance 
abolitionists, and Washington, as an eminent man of 
business, disliked and opposed servile labor because of 
its wastefulness. The difficulty in those days lay not 
here, but further south in South Carolina and Georgia, 

1 Retrospections of America, John Bernard, edition of 1887, p. 91. 


who would enter into no compact with the North which 
did not guarantee them their property. Rutledge of 
South Carolina stated with exactness the true southern 
position, as it was afterward held universally south of 
the Potomac : " Religion and humanity have nothing to 
do with this question. Interest alone is the governing 
principle with nations. The true question is whether the 
Southern States shall or shall not be parties to the Union." 

Finally a bargain was struck. The North agreed that, 
in computing the population entitled to representation 
in the House of Representatives and in the Electoral 
College, slaves should be counted in the ratio of three 
fifths of their number, that fugitive slaves should be 
surrendered to their owners wherever found, and that 
the United States should protect the states against 
domestic violence. 

Verily, momentous issues hinged upon the success of 
Washington s experiment, for had Virginia developed 
industrially she must have become free, and with Virginia 
free there could have been no Civil War. But in 1799 
Washington died, leaving his scheme of converging high 
ways embryonic, and his federal capital, which should 
have been the focus of American exchanges, industry, 
and thought, little better than a wilderness. And he 
failed because he could not bring it about that his canal 


should, at that precise moment of time, be built by 
government funds or, in other words, collectively. Also 
by 1804 his failure and the cause thereof had become 
apparent. And it was then that John Quincy Adams 
took up the theory of constructive centralization, not 
indeed precisely at the point at which Washington had 
left it, but with the expansion due to the operation upon 
the problem of a profound scientific mind. Adams could 
not so early understand that science might defeat its 
own intended end. 

Before entering the Senate in 1803 Adams had probably 
never reflected upon the relation of transportation to 
civilization, but he could not have dwelt long at what 
Washington proposed to have made the focus of western 
vitality without observing the absence of energy at the 
heart. Thus he soon reached the same conclusion which 
Washington had reached long before, that a highly or 
ganized community could only be the offspring of a 
sound system of highways and that effective highways 
should be built by the State since, were highways built 
as a speculation by private persons, the common welfare 
must be subordinated to private profit. Thus he evolved 
his theory of internal improvements, which moulded his 
whole later life. 

Mr. Adams said in conversation with another member 


of Congress, T. R. Mitchell, in 1831 : " I was no worshipper 
of the tariff, but of internal improvement, for the pursuit 
of which by Congress, as a system, I claimed to be the first 
mover. It was by a resolution which I offered to the Sen 
ate of the United States on the 23d of February, 1807." l 

Adams resolution under another name brought forth 
Gallatin s well-known report, which Clay afterward ad 
vocated, but which Adams alone succeeded in formulat 
ing in his message to Congress in 1825, which embodied 
this doctrine, and which was set aside by Jackson, but 
which must be read by any one who would understand 
this phase of American development. 

Most unfortunately for all concerned Adams connec 
tion with internal improvements at this stage of the 
movement was short. A few days after he offered his 
resolution, the session closed. The next June the Leopard 
fired upon the Chesapeake; in consequence Adams voted 
for the embargo, whereupon he resigned from the Senate, 
and in 1809 was sent to Russia by Mr. Madison. 

1 Diary VIII, 444. 

Resolved, "That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to pre 
pare and report to the Senate, at their next session, a plan for the 
application of such means as are constitutionally withhi the power of 
Congress, to the purposes of opening roads, for removing obstructions 
in rivers, and making canals; together with a statement of the under 
takings of that nature now existing within the United States which, 
as objects of public improvement, may require and deserve the aid of 


It is well to observe that at this period the African slave 
trade was suppressed, which raised the price of slaves 
and thus tended to throw slave breeding upon the border 
states, such as Virginia, making it gradually her most 
profitable industry. Adams only returned in 1817 to 
take charge of the State Department, and at once plunged 
into the Florida controversy, which involved the defence 
of Jackson for the execution of Arbuthnot and Am- 
brister, and absolutely absorbed his attention until the 
rise of the Missouri question in 1819. Meanwhile, how 
ever, the whole economic equilibrium of the country had 
been shifted by the appearance of the cotton gin. In 
1792 Eli Whitney, a native of Massachusetts and a 
graduate of Yale, invented the cotton gin, whose purpose 
was to separate the cotton seed from the fibre, which it 
had been theretofore extremely tedious and expensive 
to do by hand. The machine was a success and though 
Whitney was robbed of his invention, he revolutionized 
cotton planting by making it highly lucrative, so much 
so that in 1830 the crop reached one million bales. The 
breeding of slaves for the cultivation of this cotton thus 
became more profitable in Virginia than industry in iron 
and coal. Finally Virginia came to export forty thou 
sand blacks annually for the purpose, and it was then 
that Mr. Adams came, by the pressure of events, to con- 


sider the Missouri question which arose therefrom. 
His diary is full of references to it. In his view the 
whole complexion of western civilization turned upon 
its right determination. Peace and war even w r ere 
directly involved, and from the outset, as early as Jan 
uary, 1820, it had fixed his attention and in an aspect 
quite diverse from that which had presented itself to 
Washington : 

"The Missouri question has taken such hold of my 
feelings and imagination that, finding my ideas con 
nected with it very numerous, but confused for want of 
arrangement, I have within these few days begun to com 
mit them to paper loosely as they arise in my mind. 
There are views of the subject which have not yet been 
taken by any of the speakers or writers by whom they 
have been discussed views which the time has not yet 
arrived for presenting to the public, but which in all 
probability it will be necessary to present hereafter. I 
take it for granted that the present question is a mere 
preamble a title-page to a great tragic volume. I 
have reserved my opinions upon it, as it has been ob 
viously proper for me to do. The time may, and I think 
will, come when it will be my duty equally clear to give 
my opinion, and it is even now proper for me to begin 
the preparation of myself for that emergency. The 


President thinks this question will be winked away by 
a compromise. But so do not I. Much am I mistaken 
if it is not destined to survive his political and individual 
life and mine." 1 

Thus the problem was gradually assuming in the mind 
of Adams both a scientific and a religious aspect, and I 
think that I cannot do better than to insert here the 
letter to Mr. Upham to which Henry alluded as explain 
ing the scientific side of his program. Mr. Upham was 
a Salem clergyman who had asked Mr. Adams for de 
tails wherewith to write a notice of his life. 

According to Adams own repeated and most solemn as 
severations made to himself as he came to die, his highest 
aspiration, his dearest hope, almost from his youth up, 
had been by his sustained support of applied science 
to rank as one of the benefactors of mankind. He ad 
mitted that he had failed. 

WASHINGTON, 2 Feb., 1837. 

Salem, Mass. 

I fear I have done and can do little good in the world. 
And my life will end in disappointment of the good which 
I would have done, had I been permitted. The great 
effort of my administration was to mature into a per 
manent and regular system the application of all the 

1 Diary IV, 502, January 10, 1820. 


superfluous revenue of the Union to internal improve 
ment which at this day would have afforded high wages 
and constant employment to hundreds of thousands of 
laborers, and in which every dollar expended would have 
repaid itself fourfold in the enhanced value of the public 
lands. With this system in ten years from this day the 
surface of the whole Union would have been checkered 
over with railroads and canals. It may still be done 
half a century later and with the limping gait of State 
legislature and private adventure. I would have done it 
in the administration of the affairs of the nation. I laid the 
foundation of it all by a resolution offered to the Senate 
of the United States in 1806, and adopted under another s 
name (the Journals of the Senate are my vouchers.) 1 

When I came to the presidency the principle of internal 
improvement was swelling the tide of public prosperity, 
till the Sable Genius of the South saw the signs of his own 
inevitable downfall in the unparalleled progress of the 
general welfare of the North, and fell to cursing the tariff, 
and internal improvement, and raised the standard of 
free trade, nullification, and state rights. I fell and with 
me fell, I fear never to rise again, certainly never to rise 
again in my day, the system of internal improvement 
by means of national energies. The great object of my 
life therefore, as applied to the administration of the 
government of the United States, has failed. The Ameri 
can Union, as a moral person in the family of nations, is 
to live from hand to mouth, and to cast away instead of 
using for the improvement of its own condition, the 
bounties of Providence. ^ 

But, after all, was there a Providence? 

1 It was in fact presented on February 23, 1807, Diary VIII, 444. 


This must serve as my exposition of Mr. Adams policy 
of collective administration as a statesman and as a 
Christian, which he had evolved on the theory that man 
is a reasoning animal and that there is a God or a con 
scious ruler of the universe, whom man can intelligently 
serve and with whom he can covenant. Assuming that 
there was in existence such a universe and such a be 
nevolent God, Mr. Adams went on to explain as a 
scientific fact that a volume of energy lay stored within 
the Union, which as an administrator he could have de 
veloped had he been able to work at leisure and had he 
been supported by his Creator. Also this potential 
energy would have raised the people of this country 
beyond the danger of severe economic competition, 
practically, forever. Such a consummation had, how 
ever, been made impossible by the growth of the plant 
ing, or slave interest, permitted by the Almighty, which 
was an offence to God. This was a catastrophe which 
he could never understand nor forget supposing there 
to have been a Providence. The substance of this ap 
pears in the following extract from a very famous address 
made by him in 1842, almost at the close of his active 
political life, and when he appreciated that Civil War 
was imminent. 

"The Southern or Slave party, outnumbered by the 


free, are cemented together by a common, intense in 
terest of property to the amount of $1,200,000,000 in 
human beings, the very existence of which is neither 
allowed nor tolerated in the North. . . . The total 
abandonment by President Jackson, of all internal im 
provement by the authority of Congress, and of all 
national protection to domestic industry, was a part of 
the same system, which, in the message of December, 
1832, openly recommended to give away gratuitously 
all the public lands, and renounce forever all idea of 
raising any revenue from them. This was nullification 
in its most odious feature. The public lands are the 
richest inheritance ever bestowed by a bountiful Creator 
upon any national community. All the mines of gold 
and silver and precious stones on the face or in the bowels 
of the globe, are in value compared to them, but the dust 
of the balance. Ages upon ages of continual progres 
sive improvement, physical, moral, political, in the con 
dition of the whole people of this Union, were stored up 
in the possession and disposal of these lands. . . . 

"I had long entertained and cherished the hope that 
these public lands were among the chosen instruments 
of Almighty power, ... of improving the condition of 
man, by establishing the practical, self-evident truth of 
the natural equality and brotherhood of all mankind, 


as the foundation of all human government, and by 
banishing slavery and war from the earth. . . . The 
project first proclaimed by Andrew Jackson, ... of giv 
ing away the national inheritance to private land jobbers, 
or to the states in which they lie ... was the consum 
mation of the Maysville road veto policy ... to per 
petuate the institution of slavery and its dominion over 
the North American Union. l 

" I have earnestly hoped that those states themselves 
would at no distant day abolish slavery. My hopes of 
these events are not wholly abandoned but weakened 
and deferred. The interdiction of the African slave 
trade has had the unfortunate effect of giving the monop 
oly of the slave-breeding trade to Maryland and Virginia, 
and it is lamentable to see that the most sordid of passions 
has thus been enlisted on the side of perpetual slavery." 

Having now explained in his own words Mr. Adams 
opinions as a statesman and as a scientist touching 
national collective administrative development, we ap 
proach what to him was the most vital of all questions, 
and that was the relation of his policy of internal improve 
ment to God. First of all I must premise that, as a 
Christian, Mr. Adams still at this date, in theory, believed, 
and probably at the time of his election to the presidency 

1 Address to Constituents, Sept. 17, 1842, pp. 22, 23, 24, 51, 52. 


believed without a doubt, in the existence of a Supreme 
and omnipotent Creator of the world, whose nature was 
benign, and of a " crucified Saviour" who proclaimed 
immortal life and who preached peace on earth, good-will 
to men, the natural equality of all mankind, and the law, 
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Such being 
in general his theological belief, 1 he thus stated his con 
ception of the relation which this divine principle bore 
to his duty to develop by all means in his power the re 
sources of the United States in such a manner as should 
conduce most to the moral elevation and physical well- 
being of the whole people. Such a movement in his 
view, as I have already shown, hinged on the scientific 
development of internal resources, so that they might 
be utilized without waste. 

QUINCY, 13 July, 1837. 

President of the Theological Seminary, Andover. 


. . . The occasion naturally called for an exposition 
of my opinions with regard to the inconsistency between 
the principles asserted in the Declaration of Independence 
and the existence of Domestic slavery. I thought it 
also a fitting occasion to state the grounds of my belief 
that the ultimate extinguishment of slavery throughout 
the earth was the great transcendent earthly object of 

1 Diary XI, 341. 


the mission of the Redeemer. . . . That the Declaration 
of Independence was a leading event in the progress of 
the gospel dispensation. . . . That its principles lead 
directly to the abolition of slavery and of war, and that 
it is the duty of every free American to contribute to the 
utmost extent of his power to the practical establishment 
of those principles. . . . 

The difficulty which Mr. Adams encountered, in re 
ducing his theory as a Christian, to practice may be stated 
in a nutshell, and the result to which it led him shall follow 
in his own words. 

Mr. Adams as a scientific man was a precursor of the 
later Darwinians who have preached the doctrine of 
human perfectability, a doctrine in which the modern 
world has believed and still professes to believe. Grant 
ing that there is a benign and omnipotent Creator of 
the world, who watches over the fate of men, Adams 
sincere conviction was that such a being thinks according 
to certain fixed laws, which we call scientific laws ; that 
these laws may be discovered by human intelligence and 
when discovered may be adapted to human uses. And 
if so discovered, adapted, and practised they must lead 
men certainly to an approach to perfection, and more 
especially to the elimination of war and slavery. The 
theory was pleasing, and since the time of Mr. Adams it 
has been generally accepted as the foundation of Ameri- 


can education and the corner stone of democracy. But 
mark how far it led Mr. Adams astray in 1828, and how 
at last it broke his heart. Eli Whitney s cotton gin was 
certainly one of the most famous and successful of the 
applications of science to a supremely bountiful gift of 
God, in making American cotton serviceable and cheap 
to the whole human race. But it propagated slavery, 
it turned the fair state of Virginia into an enormous slave- 
breeding farm, whence forty thousand blacks were 
annually exported to the South, and thus inexorably 
induced the Civil War ; so with the public lands which 
Mr. Adams would willingly have given his life to save 
for his contemporaries and their posterity. Railroads 
and canals raised the price of these lands by making 
them accessible. And this is what Mr. Adams saw in 
the House of Representatives in 1838, and this is his 
comment on the humanizing effect of applied science. 
It was the triumph of Benton and Jackson, of the very 
essence of evil, over him. "The thirst of a tiger for 
blood is the fittest emblem of the rapacity with which 
the members of all the new states fly at the public lands. 
The constituents upon whom they depend are all settlers, 
or tame and careless spectators of the pillage. They are 
themselves enormous speculators and land-jobbers. It 
were a vain attempt to resist them here." This was 


written on June 12, 1838, and thus had the bargain 
of Benton with the planters been consummated by means 
of applied science. 1 Such bargains were to have been 
anticipated and would have been taken as a matter of 
course by an ordinary political huckster, but Mr. Adams, 
though after his defeat in 1828 he did practically, as he 
states here, give up the contest, because he had ceased 
to believe that God supported him, never could nor ever 
did reconcile himself to the destiny which this betrayal 
by God entailed on the world. 

Nevertheless, it was all the logical result of competition, 
of applied science, and of education as stimulating social 
ambition, and therefore greed. As an old man Mr. 
Adams sat in Congress and watched the competition 
between slave and free labor gathering the heat which 
presaged a convulsion, and he confessed to himself that 
"the conflict will be terrible." On the other hand he had 
loved his mother as he never loved another human being 
on the earth. Come what might he could not surrender 
his hope of immortality. To have been driven to such 
an admission would have killed him. This internal con 
flict forced him to seek to sustain his sinking faith by 
such pretences as he found at hand. 

In 1843 he was old, and physical ailments were crowd- 

1 "Memoirs" Ix. 235. 


ing upon him. Among the worst of these was catarrh, 
or "tussis senilis" as he called it, which afflicted him 
much. One communion Sunday in March he was kept 
at home by this cough, and he employed his time in re 
cording the following reflections upon his past life and 
his present belief. It seems hardly credible that a man 
of his energy of mind should have admitted what a pang 
so slight a disappointment, which at an earlier day he 
would have ignored, actually gave him as he peered at 
the end into the gate of death. 

"I have this day been debarred by my disease [catarrh] 
from the privilege of attendance upon public worship, 
and felt it with deep mortification. The time has been, 
chiefly in foreign countries, when I have too long inter 
mitted the duty of that attendance. Of this I charge 
myself especially when in Holland, in Berlin, in St. 
Petersburg, and last in France. . . . For this I blame my 
self ; but the importance of regular attendance upon the 
duties of the Christian Sabbath in social communion has 
impressed itself more deeply on my mind in proportion as 
I have advanced in years. I had neglected to become a 
member of the church till after the decease of my father - 
another omission which I now regret. I have at all times 
been a sincere believer in the existence of a Supreme 
Creator of the world, of an immortal principle within 


myself, responsible to that Creator for my conduct upon 
earth, and of the divine mission of the crucified Saviour, 
proclaiming immortal life and preaching peace on earth, 
good will to men, the natural equality of all mankind, 
and the law, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 
Of all these articles of faith, all resting upon the first, the 
existence of an Omnipotent Spirit, I entertain invol 
untary and agonizing doubts, which I can neither silence 
nor expel, and against which I need for my own comfort 
to be fortified and sustained by stated and frequent op 
portunities of receiving religious admonition and in 
struction. I feel myself to be a frequent sinner before 
God, and I need to be often admonished of it, and exhorted 
to virtue. . . . This forms a regular portion of my 
habits of life, and I cannot feel the privation of it without 
painful sensibility." l 

Mr. Adams considered his life a failure ; and from his 
point of view it was a failure ; and in the same way and 
by a parity of reasoning Henry considered his life a 
failure, because he had not accomplished what at the 
outset he hoped. For example, John Quincy Adams 
wrote only a few days before the stroke of paralysis which 
ended his work : "If my intellectual powers had been such 
as have been sometimes committed by the Creator of 
1 Diary XI, 340, 341. 


man to single individuals of the species, my diary would 
have been, next to the Holy Scriptures, the most precious 
and valuable book ever written by human hands, and I 
should have been one of the greatest benefactors of my 
country and of mankind. I would, by the irresistible 
power of genius and the irrepressible energy of will and 
the favor of Almighty God, have banished war and 
slavery from the face of the earth forever. But the con 
cept ivc power of mind was not conferred upon me by 
my Maker, and I have not improved the scanty portion 
of His gifts as I might and ought to have done." Then 
he adds, "May I never . . . murmur at the dispensations 
of Providence." In other words he was disappointed be 
cause he was not supernatural. And yet, as a matter of 
fact, Mr. Adams had one of the most powerful scientific 
minds of his age, and of this he has left a record in his 
report on weights and measures. Among my father s 
sons not one save Henry had any aptitude for science ; 
the others were ordinary lawyers or men of affairs, but 
in Henry the instinct which he inherited from his grand 
father showed itself strongly and early. Henry in one 
of the most charming passages in his " Education" has 
told us how one day in London in 1867, when he was not 
yet thirty, Sir Charles Lyell asked him to review his 
"Principles" for him in America, and afterward, in token 


of his appreciation and gratification at Henry s work, 
left him his field compass. Now Sir Charles, whom I, 
as a child, very well remember as a dear friend of my 
mother, though a most amiable and delightful old gentle 
man, was by no means careless of his own reputation 
and was more particularly anxious to be well presented 
to the American public. Hence the compliment to 
Henry was the more flattering coming from so old a 
man, then standing at the apex of scientific fame, toward 
a young one who had as yet made not even a shadowy 
reputation in the literary world. Nor had Henry any 
education in geology save what he gave himself. But 
Sir Charles, to his great credit, recognized thus promptly 
Henry s intelligence and industry. How well the work 
was done any one may see by reading the paper in the 
North American Review. And so it was with John Quincy 
Adams from whom he inherited his talent. 



HEN Mr. Adams returned home in 1817 to take 

charge of the State Department, he found a 
resolution of the Senate awaiting him dated March 3, 
1817, directing the Secretary of State to prepare and 
report to the Senate a statement relative to the regula 
tions and standards for weights and measures in the 
several states, and relative to the proceedings in foreign 
countries, for establishing uniformity in weights and 
measures, together with " suggestions as to the course 
proper to be adopted by the United States. 

Most Secretaries of State have been content to dis 
charge, with what credit they might, the duties of the 
office, and have found those ample to absorb their energy, 
but Mr. Adams was a man of a different kidney, and an 
estimate by the youngest of his grandsons, who has him 
self become old, of the activities of his grandfather con 
trasts strangely with his ancestor s morbid depreciation 
of himself. 

One of his expedients for finding time was to rise at 
four o clock in the morning. With this explanation it 



may, perhaps, be easier to understand how he succeeded 
in writing his report while holding office as Secretary of 
State at a period of high pressure in public business. 
For it was during this interval that, among other things, 
the Monroe Doctrine was formulated, that Jackson 
nearly brought us into war with England by his execu 
tion of Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and that the despatch 
to Erving was written. And in those days Mr. Adams 
had little help even in the commonest drudgery. He had 
no private secretary, much less a stenographer. He 
wrote every word himself, often copying the more im 
portant papers with a hand palsied by writer s cramp. 
At last in October, 1819, he resolutely got to work. He 
was confronted with the resolution of the Senate direct 
ing the Secretary of State to report upon the action taken 
by other nations regarding weights and measures and 
to suggest a policy for the United States. 

Mr. Adams had a peculiar mind. It concentrated 
slowly but when centred it acted with extreme intensity. 
Once absorbed he lapsed into a species of trance in which 
he forgot all else. But the transition from politics to 
science was slow and painful. 

Among the responsibilities of government few are 
graver than the regulation of weights and measures, and 
this responsibility increases with every advance in trade, 


in wealth, in applied science, or in invention. The 
coinage is a matter of weights ; trade turns on measures, 
while the standardization of machinery presupposes ab 
solute accuracy of measurement. One of the chief 
glories of the French Revolution was the perfecting of 
the metric system. Now that the metric system has 
been long established we can with difficulty realize the 
confusion which its introduction caused. As Mr. Adams 
observed in his report: " The substitution of an entire 
new system of weights and measures, instead of one long 
established and in general use, is one of the most arduous 
exercises of legislative authority. There is indeed no 
difficulty in enacting and promulgating the law; but 
the difficulties of carrying it into execution are always 
great, and have often proved insuperable." 

To a great degree the French have always found them 
so. To this day they have never succeeded in applying 
the decimal system to time. " Weights and measures may 
be ranked among the necessaries of life, to every indi 
vidual of human society. They enter into the economical 
arrangements and daily concerns of every family. They 
are necessary to every occupation of human industry ; to 
the distribution and security of every species of property ; 
to every transaction of trade and commerce ; to the labors 
of the husbandman ; to the ingenuity of the artificer ; 


to the studies of the philosopher; to the researches of 
the antiquarian ; to the navigation of the mariner, and 
the marches of the soldier ; to all the exchanges of peace, 
and all the operations of war." Suddenly one of the 
chiefest of the family of nations shifted its standard, and 
forthwith all other nations sought an adjustment. They 
seek one still. Accordingly many governments appointed 
commissions of eminent scientists to report not only on 
the value of the metric system itself, but upon the means 
of reaching a common standard. And these problems 
have never yet been satisfactorily solved. Parliament 
early bestirred itself, Congress somewhat later. And 
this was the resolve which awaited Mr. Adams after an 
absence of eight years. He had no commission with its 
resources at command. He was absolutely isolated and 
alone, and besides he found the Department itself in chaos. 
The confusion was in part due to the sack of Washington, 
but still more to the slackness which had prevailed from 
the foundation of the government in the filing of corre 
spondence. Plunged forthwith in the Spanish turmoil 
which lasted from the occupation of Amelia Island in 
1817, to the revolution which provoked the Monroe 
Doctrine, Mr. Adams passed much of his time in hunting 
for essential documents, and every practical man will 
sympathize with his nervous irritation at the strain put 


upon him by having to teach his clerks some rudiments 
of order, at the same time that he had to rout bitter ad 
versaries in front, and strengthen timid colleagues be 
hind. Doing, besides his own work as Secretary, that of 
a common clerk, he was at the mercy of such an uncon 
scionable bore as the British Minister, Stratford Canning, 
who thought nothing of idling away three or four hours 
of a morning, at the Secretary s expense. 

After his vacation in the summer of 1819, Mr. Adams 
returned to Washington in October and resolutely attacked 
his report. Probably no political conflict in which he ever 
engaged wrought his nerves to so high a tension, for in 
science he entered into, as it were, a foreign field and one in 
which he felt much diffidence, as was reasonable, for the 
difficulties he encountered might have discouraged the best 
trained mathematician and physicist in the world. Work 
ing under the best conditions with every appliance and 
vast libraries at hand, the combined talent of France 
and England had reached no satisfactory conclusion 
touching the relation of the foot to the metre. And 
Adams had to criticise the discrepancies between the 
various measurements of the British pendulum vibrating 
seconds in vacuo. The difference according to him be 
tween a committee of the House of Commons and Cap 
tain Kater was an one hundred and twenty-sixth part 


of an inch. Thus even in London or Paris the investi 
gator had much to contend with, but without doubt no 
considerable capital in the civilized world was so bereft 
of experimental appliances as was then Washington, 
which was little better than a poorly administered south 
ern village, with all the educational slackness which that 
implies. Nor had Adams the training or experience to 
be able to make good these deficiencies from his own re 
sources. Even his mathematics he had to furbish up 
as he went along. In science he was self-educated. He 
could neither invent new apparatus, nor repair injured 
pieces. Hardly could he command the use of a chronom 
eter. Worst of all, he found no kindred mind from which 
he could draw a stimulant. Nor could he give to his 
work either the best of his time during the day or the best 
days of the year. The only hours he could veritably 
call his own were from three o clock in the morning until 
breakfast, and those only in summer, in hot weather, 
when work was fatiguing almost beyond endurance. 
In winter social engagements at night prevented him from 
rising so early, and visits at the office effectually put a 
stop to serious concentration during the day. There 
fore to work consecutively he had to give up his visit 
to his father at Quincy in August, which almost broke 
the poor old man s heart, after his wife had died, as oc- 


rurred long before 1819. And thus John Quincy Adams 
passed all summer laboriously writing in Washington, 
though writing had become beyond measure irksome to 
him in the moist heat of the Potomac Valley, which 
always debilitated him. 

For months his diary is rilled with plaints about the 
pressure on his time, and the misery of trying to con 
centrate his attention in Washington in summer, and 
with strange accounts of the rude experiments to which 
he was constrained to resort to test his theories. For 
example, one set of his instruments was an old pair of 
bank scales "which belonged to the Branch of the old 
Bank of the United States, but which having been dis 
used are not regulated and have grown rusty." 

Another time he was quite at a loss to find out the con 
tent of an ordinary hogshead of Bordeaux. In hardly 
any other city in the world would he have had to do more 
than to ask at the chief grocer s counter, but in Washing 
ton nobody knew. These daily incidents illustrate the 
shifts to which he was driven. 

The whole diary is filled for months with entries which 
would be of absorbing interest to any reader who wished 
to measure the natural scientific powers of my grand 
father but which would be misplaced here. I am en 
gaged not in writing a biography of John Quincy Adams 


but in making only such a statement of the temperament 
of the man as may serve to elucidate the actions and 
writings of one of his grandsons as well as his own. Hence, 
I must pass over the details of the composition of the 
Report, and hasten at once to its publication. 

As the month of October, 1820, wasted, Mr. Adams 7 
anxiety to finish it became so acute that he suffered 
severely from insomnia, and yet in spite of all obstacles, 
even of Stratford Canning, who lounged in the office 
at the rate of three hours a day and then insulted the 
Secretary, thereby throwing a mass of additional copy 
ing on his hands, Adams succeeded in sending his report 
to Congress on February 22, 1821. This was also the day 
on which the Florida treaty was ratified, which Mr. 
Adams held to be his great diplomatic triumph. 

At the moment of publication Mr. Adams felt abashed, 
as it was reasonable that an essentially modest man, 
like himself, should feel, for though he knew that he had 
done his best, he dared not hope that he had made good 
his deficiencies, and he saw no one to whom he could 
turn for criticism or for aid in his perplexities. Before 
the final revision, indeed, he sent the copy to Calhoun, 
who, while generally approving, suggested a few slight 
alterations and omissions, all of which Adams adopted. 
But Calhoun was by no means an authority on science. 


And "who was he," as Adams told himself despondently, 
to venture to expound, "a subject which has occupied 
for the last sixty years many of the ablest men in Europe, 
and to which all the power and all the philosophical and 
mathematical learning and ingenuity of France and 
Great Britain have been incessantly directed?" At first 
the scientific world was inclined to take him at his own 
valuation. No trade or profession likes interlopers, 
science, perhaps, least of all, and so far as immediate 
success went, Mr. Adams very strength militated most 
strongly against him. Science could not believe that it 
could be sound and yet literary, artistic, and historical. 
A man who produced a gem like the Report of Weights 
and Measures must necessarily be a quack. For the 
Report on Weights and Measures is a vast effort at 
generalization. It was unprecedented. It deals with 
history and philosophy quite as much as with physics. 
Richard Rush, who was very intelligent, laid his finger 
instantly upon the weak spot. "I have finished a first 
perusal of the report on weights and mesures and must 
say, with far more interest than I ever expected to feel 
in the pursuit of such a discussion. ... Of its various 
scientific deductions, I am no judge, but naturally place 
these at a high rate from the abundant research of which 
the investigation everywhere bears evidence. It is not 


always that elaborate deductions of science, come recom 
mended by so much literature and eloquence. I have 
always thought the subject dry, but I see that it is most 
fruitful ; I had thought it circumscribed, but I see that 
it embraces everything." 

As Rush intimated the Report was too broad for any 
contemporary audience. It contained too much science 
for the general public, and too much literature for the 
profession. Science always tends to a narrow specializa 
tion. Mathematicians in especial distrust inferences 
based on premises drawn from history or philosophy. 
Conversely Rush said bluntly that his opinion on the 
technical side was worthless. And yet it was upon its 
technical excellence that the work must stand or fall. 
Precisely in the same way, John Adams, who would have 
devoured with ravenous relish every word his beloved 
son might have chanced to write on jurisprudence, meta 
physics, politics, or history, had to admit that he could 
not read physics, so widely were their minds sundered 
on this subject which he had never studied and for which 
he had no aptitude. 

LITTLE HILL, MAY 10, 1821. 


My thanks are due to you, and are most joyfully given, 
for two copies of your " Report on Weights and Meas- 


ures," Though I cannot say, and perhaps shall 
never be able to say, that I have read it, yet I have turned 
over leaves of it enough to see that it is a mass of his 
torical, philosophical, chemical, metaphysical and po 
litical knowledge, which no industry in this country but 
yours could have collected in so short a time. . . . Wash 
ington used to say sometimes, "They w r ork me hard." 
I am sure they work you harder, I fear they will work you 
up too soon. I am glad to perceive that your brother 
[Thomas Adams, the judge of the Court of Common 
Pleas], is reading the book with attention. 

The poor old man loathed the Report for it kept his son 
in Washington whom he was wearing his heart out to see, 
and so the letter ended, with a prayer for pity ; "I long to 
see you once more and hope for that pleasure as soon as the 
public service will permit, I subscribe with pride and 
exquisite delight, your affectionate father." In America 
the work fell dead. That it should have done so was to 
be expected since literary suspicion and incredulity of 
compatriots is a national quality. We have never over 
come that trait of provincialism. For an American 
author to receive credit in his own country, he must 
first win reputation abroad. Thus it happened in the 
case of Mr. Adams. He obtained no word of intelligent 
criticism until, thirteen years after the book had been 
published, he made the following entry in his diary, 
touching a letter which had reached him in Quincy from 


one Colonel Pasley, of the Royal Engineers, who had him 
self been publishing a work on Weights and Measures. 
He "says he has done justice to my report made to the 
Senate of the United States in 1821, acknowledging that 
my historical account of English Weights and Measures 
is more correct than any that has been given by any 
English writer, including the reports of the committees 
of the House of Commons. This acknowledgment, thir 
teen years after the publication of my report, was very 
gratifying to me. If either of my children or any of theirs 
should ever read this page, let me tell him that Colonel 
Pasley s testimonial to that single point, the accuracy 
of my historical investigation of English weights and 
measures, is but one of many discoveries which he will 
find in my report, if he will have the courage and persever 
ance to read, and examine it as he reads. He will find 
the history not only of English but of Hebrew, Greek, 
Roman, and French weights and measures, traced to their 
origin, in the natural history of man and of human society, 
such as he can find in no other writer, ancient or modern. 
" He will find a philosophical discussion of the moral 
principles involved in the consideration of weights and 
measures, and of the extent and limitation of its connection 
with binal, decimal, and duodecimal arithmetic, for which 
he might look in vain elsewhere ; and if he should remark 


that not one of his countrymen ever noticed these pe 
culiarities of that report, he may amuse himself by in 
quiring why and how it has happened. The report, from 
the day of its publication, has, in this country, scarcely 
been known to exist ; and this commendation of it, 
coming back from England, is, therefore, the more wel 
come to me." l 

Mr. Adams apparently intended to intimate to us, his 
descendants, that we should do well to be modest in our 
expectations if we looked for recognition for anything 
which we might produce containing original ideas, or 
attempts at generalization. For what he says of him 
self is true. His work of weights and measures is monu 
mental and has, since his death, been so recognized by a 
younger generation who did not feel themselves to be in 
competition with him. But the scientific is like any 
other profession, it looks with jealousy on an interloper, 
who undertakes to generalize from premises of which 
scientific men are perhaps ignorant. For, as a rule, no 
scientist pretends to know much history. Once, how 
ever, that the value of the report had been demon 
strated ample recognition came. 

Twenty-one years after its author s death, Professor 
Charles Da vies, who long had been eminent, and who 

1 Diary IX, 185. 


for many years had filled the chair of mathematics at 
Columbia and at West Point, was appointed by a com 
mittee of the University Convocation of the State of 
New York, to examine into the policy of Congress in 
enacting a statute in 1866 making the metric system 
lawful in the United States. Professor Davies passed 
two years in investigation himself, and then submitted 
his report in the form of a volume of three hundred and 
twenty-seven pages, divided into four parts. To part 
three of this exhaustive work he prefixed the following 
introduction which is the more remarkable, as few scien 
tific works retain their value, as text-books, very long. 
This was written fifty years after publication. 

"Part III. is the able and extraordinary report of Mr. 
John Quincy Adams. He examined the whole subject 
with the minuteness and accuracy of mathematical 
science with the keen sagacity of statesmanship, and 
the profound wisdom of philosophy. To that report 
nothing can be added, and from it nothing should be 
taken away. Hence the committee have published it 
in full, that the public and especially the teachers of the 
country, may understand the entire subject in all its 
phases and in all its relations." 

Another quarter of a century elapsed, and in 1906, 
Sir Sandford Flemming, as chairman of a committee ap- 


pointed by the Royal Society of Canada to consider the 
forty-inch metre, on May 25, presented a report ac 
companied by an address in which after observing that 
"International uniformity in weights and measures has 
been desired for many generations," went on to cite the 
opinions of several eminent philosophers. The first 
among these to whom Sir Sandford referred was John 
Quincy Adams. 

"Among the many distinguished men who within the 
last hundred years have studied the question with the 
view of finding a solution to the important international 
problem was John Quincy Adams, who three years be 
fore he became the sixth president of the United States 
drew up a report on weights and measures which is still 
a classic, and shows an almost incredible amount of in 

Finally, in 1906, Messrs. Hallock and Wade published 
an elaborate work on the "Evolution of Weights and 
Measures," presumably, considering the high reputation 
of these gentlemen, containing the matures! conclusions 
of modern science. In this work the authors devote 
some considerable space to the report of John Quincy 
Adams, with whose conclusions they disagree. Their 
criticism, nevertheless, begins thus: "Adams . . . sub 
mitted [a report] on February 22, 1821, that has since been 


considered almost a classic in American metrology. . . . 
While it is, of course, impossible to do justice to the 
completeness and philosophic treatment of the subject 
in this report, by any summary or brief extracts, never 
theless a few passages will show how keen was Mr. Adams 
understanding of the matter, and how well he appreciated 
the advantages of the French system." 1 

Precisely in the same way I have some reason to expect 
that much of the scientific world will sneer at Henry s 
inferences in " Phase." And in publishing his essay I 
give full weight to my grandfather s warning to expect 

But touching John Quincy Adams, from whom Henry 
received so abundant a share of his inheritance of in 
tellectual capacity, science was his tenderest part, and 
the part where he received the least sympathy and in 
telligent support from his family or friends. Henry has 
told us how at Quincy no one took the old man s garden 
ing seriously, and in the country at large his luck was 
little better, and this tried him, perhaps more than all 
the rest. For example, when president, he observed 
how the live-oak was wasted and abused and he attempted 

1 " Outlines of the Evolution of Weights and Measures and the Metric 
System, by William Hallock, Professor of Physics in Columbia Uni 
versity, and Herbert T. Wade, Editor for Physics and Applied Science, 
The New International Encyclopedia," pp. 115, 116. 


to protect it. In 1828 he matured a plan to preserve a 
forest of live-oak near Pensacola, because the natural 
history of the live-oak had many singularities and had 
not been observed ; and this plantation was growing 
luxuriantly, and numbered upwards of a hundred thou 
sand trees, to which he added a nursery of seedlings that 
their habits might be observed. All this, as Adams 
bitterly observed afterward, "is to be abandoned by the 
stolid ignorance and stupid malignity of John Branch and 
of his filthy subaltern, Amos Kendall." He could not 
reconcile himself "to the malicious pleasure of [Jackson s 
administration,] of destroying everything of which I 
had planted the germ." 

With Mr. Adams science and education were passions, 
and amounted to a religion, as I have said. For forty 
years ago the theory of progression towards perfection was 
popularly accepted as Henry has described it to have been 
in his "Education." "Unbroken Evolution under uni 
form conditions pleased every one, except curates and 
bishops; it was the very best substitute for religion." 1 
All of which was perfectly true of London in the sixties, 
but it was not thus that John Quincy Adams mingled his 
science with his God. To him the issue was, literally, one 
of life and death, for were his premises false, and were he 

1 "Education," 225. 


mistaken in his belief that the universe were ruled by a 
conscious and benign God, then progressive improvement 
would be impossible, civilization would be a failure, and 
the world itself a place in which he cared not to live. 

Never was crusader more sternly in earnest in his belief 
in the miraculous virtue of the relics which he had suffered 
so much to conquer and by which he hoped to gain felicity 
on earth and in heaven, than was John Quincy Adams in 
1828 in his faith that there was a God in heaven whose 
thought was manifested in those truths which he de 
scribed as scientific laws, which would, were they properly 
studied and observed, certainly lead to such an approach 
to perfection as would enable mankind to suppress forever 
the ulcers of war and slavery. 

Doubtless as the election of 1828 approached he had 
his fears. He mistrusted himself as to whether he had 
duly served his Creator. But he never suspected that 
God could not cause him to triumph if he would. In 
the same way, Guy de Lusignan with his crusaders fought 
Saladin at Tiberias in 1187, in the faith that the cross they 
bore before them would give them victory, if only God 
would work his miracle. Both believers were totally 
defeated and the effect on their world was much the same. 
After Tiberias the relics lost their value, so much so that 
from having been accepted as the best possible security 


for loans by bankers, they fell to the point where they 
became an absolute danger to the possessor, as the monks 
found to their cost in England in the sixteenth century. 
Adams did not fare quite so badly as did the wretched 
Abbot of Glastonbury under Henry VIII, but he suffered 
enough to embitter him permanently and to make him 
seriously doubt the existence of a God and of the efficacy 
of science as a guide. Nevertheless he persevered to 
the end of his life, always hoping against hope. To 
him the alternative was too dreadful for contemplation. 
It so happened that in October of 1830 his neighbors of 
the Plymouth District nominated Mr. Adams for Con 
gress, and in the following November they elected him 
by a great majority. On the evening of November 6, the 
day on which he heard the news, he sat alone at home, 
meditating on what had befallen him. The event to 
him was quite unexpected. It fairly bewildered him. He 
thus poured out his feelings: "Twenty-two towns gave 
2505 votes, of which 1817 were for John Quincy Adams. 
... I am a member elect of the Twenty-Second Congress. 
. . . My return to public life in a subordinate station is 
disagreeable to my family, and disapproved by some of 
my friends ; though no one has expressed that disappro 
bation to me. 

" For the discharge of the duties of this particular station 


I never was eminently qualified, possessing no talent for 
extemporaneous public speaking, and at this time being 
in the decline of my faculties, both of mind and body. 
This event, therefore, gives me deep concern and anxious 
forebodings . . . No one knows, and few conceive, the 
agony of mind that I have suffered from the time that I 
was made by circumstances, and not by my volition, a can 
didate for the presidency till I was dismissed from that 
station by the failure of my reelection. They were 
feelings to be suppressed and they were suppressed. No 
human being has ever heard me complain. . . . 

" But this call upon me by the people of the district in 
which I reside, to represent them in Congress, has been 
spontaneous, and although counteracted by a double 
opposition, federalist and Jacksonite, I have received 
nearly three votes in four throughout the district. My 
election as President of the United States was not half so 
gratifying to my inmost soul. No election or appointment 
conferred upon me ever gave me so much pleasure. I 
say this to record my sentiments ; but no stranger 
intermeddleth with my joys, and the dearest of my friends 
have no sympathy with my sensations." 

Yet almost incredible as it may seem, despite his mis 
givings, Mr. Adams after taking his seat in Congress, 
though opposed through the remainder of his life by a 


series of democratic administrations and by a reactionary, 
victorious, and malignant slave oligarchy, succeeded 
rather better as a lonely member of the House in the 
advancement of those ideas which he considered that he 
had been born to preach, than he had as President of the 
United States, with all the power and influence which 
that office gives. 

Certainly toward the end of his life he exercised a far 
greater influence on popular opinion than he had ever 
attained to before. Inside of Congress and out, he toiled 
unceasingly to improve education and to stimulate 
science. He urged on Congress the organization of a 
naval academy to train men of the quality of his contem 
poraries, Maury, Gilliss, and Davis, and he never remitted 
his agitation for an observatory. In his vacations he 
experimented on tree planting and lectured on education. 
In New York and Philadelphia he attended conventions 
of learned societies, and he so impressed himself on those 
with whom he came in contact, that he finally made even 
a slave-holding Congress recognize his ability and use him 
whenever they thought it safe to do so. 

Occasionally scientific matters came before Congress 
when special committees were appointed and then the 
speaker not infrequently appointed Adams chairman, 
when he seldom failed to offer some suggestion of appro- 


priations and to sustain them with a luminous report. 
An example of such a paper is the report he made in 
1840 on a petition of the American Philosophical Society, 
headed by Bache, asking for magnetic observatories. 
But his most brilliant service in this connection was 
his defence of the Smithson bequest. In 1826 James 
Smithson bequeathed 100,000 to the United States, to 
found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian 
Institution, an establishment for the "increase and diffusion 
of knowledge among men." Finally, after the death of 
Mr. Smithson in 1835, through the services of Mr. Rush, 
104,599 in gold were brought home and in 1838 were 
deposited in the mint in Philadelphia, and then at once an 
acrimonious controversy touching the execution of the trust 
set in, fomented by every adventurer in search of a job in 
the United States. The struggle lasted several years, and 
meanwhile the only practical step the government took 
was, as a popular measure, to invest the whole fund in 
Arkansas bonds, which proved to be worthless. Mr. 
Adams, as chairman of the House Committee, made a 
series of reports, the most famous of which is that of 1840, 
in which he presented resolutions pledging the United 
States to preserve the principal of the bequest unimpaired 
and so invested as to yield six per cent, while the income 
of the fund alone should be used for the objects of the 


bequest. Mr. Adams advised that the first appropriation 
should be for the establishment of an observatory. Other 
reports of the same character followed. So full of vigor 
are these papers that Professor Nourse, the historian of 
the Naval Observatory, observes in his memoir, published 
in 1873, alluding to the report of 1842, "The remark has 
been made by a competent judge that it is well worth 
the perusal of every lover of the glorious science of 
astronomy, both for the richness of its information and the 
beauty of its eloquence. " l 

Finally even so reactionary a body as an American Con 
gress, dominated by slave-holders, perceived that an 
observatory was an essential part of the equipment of 
any civilized government and took steps to build one at 
Washington. Needless to say this plan was enthusias 
tically approved by Mr. Adams, but years were still to 
elapse before his anxieties were to cease and his labors 
were to be crowned with success touching the Smithsonian. 
Nevertheless, among all Mr. Adams scientific interests 
astronomy stirred him most, and an attempt to stimulate 
that branch of science finally cost him his life. When he 
described his emotions on contemplating the heavens, he 
sometimes used language of great imaginative power. 

1 Memoir of the Founding and Progress of the United States Naval 
Observatory, I*rofessor J. K. Nourse, U. S. N T . p. 25. 


"To me, the observation of the sun, moon, and stars has 
been for a great portion of my life a pleasure of gratified 
curiosity, of ever returning wonder, and of reverence for 
the Creator and mover of these unnumbered worlds. 
There is something of awful enjoyment in observing the 
rising and setting of the sun. That flashing beam of his 
first appearance upon the horizon ; that sinking of the 
last ray beneath it ; that perpetual revolution of the 
Great and Little Bear round the pole ; that rising of the 
whole constellation of Orion from the horizontal to the 
perpendicular position, and his ride through the heavens, 
with his belt, his nebulous sword, and his four corner 
stars of the first magnitude, are sources of delight to me 
which never tire. . . . There is, indeed, intermingled 
with all this a painful desire to know more of this stupen 
dous system ; of sorrow in reflecting how little we can 
ever know of it ; and of almost desponding hope that we 
may know more of it hereafter." l 

Thus astronomy appealed to Mr. Adams both through 
the imagination and the reason, and he concluded, and 
probably correctly, that astronomy would be the best 
instrument wherewith to rouse to an interest in science 
a somewhat apathetic community. Up to 1844 the United 
States did not possess a single observatory. Mariners 

* X, 38. 


had to depend upon the calculations made at Greenwich. 
A nautical almanac was impossible. Even the longitude 
of Washington could not be fixed with proper exactness, 
and this inertia filled Mr. Adams with shame. In his 
first message to Congress he urged the erection of an 
observatory in words which filled the friends of General 
Jackson with mirth. 

"It is with no feeling of pride as an American, that the 
remark may be made, that, on the comparatively small 
territorial surface of Europe, there are existing more 
than one hundred and thirty of these light-houses of the 
skies ; while throughout the whole American hemisphere 
there is not one." The phrase " light-houses of the 
skies" probably brought more ridicule on Mr. Adams 
than anything he ever said. The line which divided John 
Quincy Adams from even the most enlightened of his 
political contemporaries was most distinctly his aptitude 
for science. He alone among public men of that period 
appreciated that a nation to flourish under conditions 
of modern economic competition, must organize its 
administrative, as well as its social system upon scientific 

Years elapsed, and Mr. Adams grew old. Apparently 
he had achieved little toward realizing his dream of doing 
a work beneficial to mankind. He had been defeated in 


his effort to organize the national administration of 
public affairs upon a scientific basis, he had failed to 
accomplish anything of moment by his experiments in 
cultivation at Quincy, he had indeed been greatly ridi 
culed even in his family ; he had not even been able to 
induce Congress to execute honestly its trust relative to the 
Smithsonian bequest, but he had won renown as an anti- 
slavery champion. His fame and popularity were 


IN July, 1843, he happened to take a vacation journey 
to Niagara with Mr. Brooks and my mother. Hardly 
had he entered the state of New York when this journey 
was transformed into a triumphal progress by a sponta 
neous popular ovation. In the midst of the outburst, on 
July 24, while at Niagara, Professor Mitchel arrived from 
Cincinnati, bringing an invitation from an astronomical 
society organized there, to deliver an oration at the laying 
of the corner-stone of the observatory they were about to 
build. Mr. Adams immediately became much excited. 
"I asked Mr. Mitchel for a short interval of time to make 
up my mind upon a proposal so strange to me ; and so 
flattering that I scarcely dare to think of it with compo 
sure." The next day he accepted. Probably he never 
thought seriously of declining, and yet he knew the risks 
he ran, and the remote possibility of advantage to himself. 
Perhaps of English and American statesmen, situated 
as he was then situated, Bacon and Franklin alone might 
have taken the view he took and chosen as he chose. 
Hardly could he justify himself in his own eye. "I have 
accepted the invitation, and promised to perform the 



duty, if in my power, on some day in the month of 
November next. . . . This is a rash promise, and, in faith 
fully analyzing my motives for making it, I wish I could 
find them pure from all alloy of vanity and self-glorifi 
cation. It is an arduous, hazardous, and expensive under 
taking, the successful performance of which is more than 
problematical, and of the event of which it is impossible 
for me to foresee anything but disappointment. Yet, 
there is a motive pure and elevated, and a purpose benev 
olent and generous, at least, mingling with the impulses 
which in this case I obey." 1 

On July 25, 1843, when John Quincy Adams wrote 
these words, he had entered upon his seventy-seventh 
year. The ceremony was to take place the following 
November. He had then held almost every office in the 
gift of the people or of the government. In his old age, 
after a life of turmoil and of alternations of fortunes, he 
had reached the pinnacle of dignity and of honor. His 
constitution though relatively vigorous had been strained 
by his labors ; he suffered from a bad catarrhal cough 
aggravated by excessive public speaking ; he could not 
fill a tithe of the calls upon him made imperative by his 
position as a political leader. He stood in much need of 
repose before the next session of Congress would begin. 

* XI, 394, 5. 


If he accepted the invitation, he must prepare an oration 
which should be worthy of the occasion and of himself, he 
must face a journey of great hardship, in an inclement 
season, and he must undergo the fatigue of a prolonged 
public ovation, an ordeal which always filled him with 
dismay. So far as he could then see, he could gain nothing 
personally, save the slight satisfaction of linking his name 
with the foundation of the first American observatory, 
a fact which would be soon forgotten. On the other hand, 
he might use his fleeting popularity to promote science. 
This consideration prevailed. He determined to make 
the effort, and run the risk. The risk proved to be greater 
than even he supposed. From the fatigue and exposure 
of that journey he never fully recovered, and as the point 
whence Mr. Adams began rapidly to fail, the Cincinnati 
celebration has a pathetic interest. The strain told 
almost immediately. Mr. Adams had never known 
popularity, and his journey through New York wrought 
upon him. His nerves had lost their elasticity, and 
excitement made him sleepless. Worst of all, although 
oppressed with work, he found he could no longer labor 
as had been his wont. 

As the weeks passed he found himself less and less 
able to cope with his accumulating tasks. He could not 
escape meeting his constituents before leaving home for 


the winter, and by September 7, he complained that 
arrears of correspondence and his address oppressed him 
"to distraction." On September 20, he was persuaded to 
consent to lecture at Springfield on his way to the west, 
and the excitement and worry of these " manifold engage 
ments" produced serious insomnia. " A state of existence 
bordering I fear upon insanity, and which I contemplate 
with alarm." 1 

Meanwhile he toiled on his oration, which he hoped to 
make a history of astronomy so alluring that it would 
kindle lasting enthusiasm. Every library, public and 
private, within reach was put under contribution, and 
his friends journeyed to Quincy laden with books. He 
dwelt much in secret on what he hoped to accomplish ; 
he recognized that this was the last opportunity he should 
ever have to realize his aspiration of stimulating his 
generation to intellectual activity. "My task is to turn 
this transient gust of enthusiasm for the science of astron 
omy at Cincinnati into a permanent and persevering 
national pursuit, which may extend the bounds of human 
knowledge, and make my country instrumental in ele 
vating the character and improving the condition of man 
upon earth. The hand of God himself has furnished me 
this opportunity to do good. But Oh ! how much will 
* MSS. Sept. 21, 1843. 


depend upon my manner of performing that task ! And 
with what agony of soul must I implore the aid of Al 
mighty Wisdom for powers of conception, energy of exer 
tion, and unconquerable will to accomplish my design." l 
I think he never wrote with such intensity of feeling of 
any political event. 

On October 20, at eleven o clock at night, perforce he 
brought his oration " to a sudden and abrupt termination." 
There was no time for revision. It was only possible 
with haste to have a single copy made. He admitted 
to himself that he "shivered at the thought." His 
departure was then only three days distant, and one of 
those days had to be devoted to the meeting at Dedham. 
As his departure approached, his friends were appalled 
at the thought of the journey and of the fatigue. In his 
journal he has related how Mr. Thayer called upon 
him "and was quite discomposed at the prospect of my 
expedition and foresees from it nothing but disaster to 
myself." Then as always Mr. Adams admitted that he 
might have been rash, but that it was too late to reconsider, 
- "I must go happen what may." 

Tuesday, October 24, was his last day at home. Having 
worked till one o clock in the morning on his speech to 
his constituents, he rose at half past four to go to Dedham. 

1 Memoirs, 19 Sept., 1843. 


The whole country side thronged to hear him. A caval 
cade met him. The church was packed. He spoke two 
hours and a half. " A miserable fragment, " as he thought, 
"of what it should have been." The next morning after 
snatching something to eat at quarter past five, he drove to 
the station in Boston, and took the train for Springfield, 
where he was to lecture. On reaching Springfield, "I 
was so worn down with weariness, three almost sleepless 
nights and anxiety, that my faculties seemed benumbed, 
and I felt as if falling into a lethargy." 

At Springfield the weather turned cold. In crossing 
the river at Albany "I felt as if I were incrusted in a bed 
of snow." In the morning he was awakened by the hail. 
The train was frozen to the rails, and could not be broken 
free for an hour. At Buffalo his accommodation was 
wretched, and on Lake Erie he met a fierce snow storm, 
and was wind-bound for a day and a half, "as cold as 
Nova Zembla." At Cleveland a choice had to be made 
between travelling night and day by stage coach over 
two hundred and thirty miles of bad and dangerous 
roads to Columbus, or four days by canal boat, on the Ohio 
Canal. Those in charge of his journey chose the boat, 
but before departing he had been recognized in a barber 
shop, and had to undergo a reception. 

In the afternoon he went on board the canal boat very 


unwell with catarrh, sore throat, and fever. The boat 
was eighty feet long, arid fifteen feet wide, and besides 
his own party was packed with the crew, four horses, 
and twenty other passengers. "So much humanity 
crowded into such a compass was a trial such as I had 
never before experienced, and my heart sunk within me 
when, squeezing into this pillory, I reflected that I am to 
pass three nights and four days in it." - " We were obliged 
to keep the windows of the cabins closed against the 
driving snow, and the stoves heated with billets of wood, 
made the rooms uncomfortably warm." "About eleven 
o clock I took to my settee bed, with a head-ache, feverish 
chills, hoarseness, and a sore throat, and my tussis senilis 
in full force." He lay in a compartment "with an iron 
stove in the centre, and side settees, on which four of us 
slept, feet to feet," next to "a bulging stable" for the 

Moving at about two miles and a half an hour, bump 
ing into all the innumerable locks, until the boat "staggers 
along like a stumbling nag," Mr. Adams sometimes tried 
to write amidst babel, and sometimes played euchre, of 
which he had never heard before. At each town where 
they stopped there was a reception, handshaking, and 
speeches. On November 4, the party reached Columbus, 
where a committee of the Astronomical Society were in 


waiting, but his cough increased in severity, and the throng 
of visitors was overwhelming. At Jefferson and Spring 
field the same scenes were repeated, and he entered 
Dayton "in triumphal procession," and found "a vast 
multitude of the people assembled" before the hotel. 
Mr. Adams had to speak from a barouche. "I was beset 
the whole evening by a succession of visitors in squads, 
to be introduced and shake hands, to every one of whom 
I was a total stranger, and the name of not one of whom 
I can remember. My friends Grinnell and W. C. Johnson 
give me every possible encouragement in getting along; 
but the strangeness of these proceedings increases like a 
ball of snow. I cannot realize that these demonstrations 
are made for me ; and the only comfort I have is that 
they are intended to manifest respect, and not hatred." 1 
Far from home, in the middle of winter, the old man 
realized that he was breaking down. 

At Lebanon the famous Thomas Corwin welcomed him 
before an enormous audience in "an address of splendid 
eloquence." Mr. Adams was covered with confusion. 

"These premeditated addresses by men of the most 

consummate ability, and which I am required to answer 

off hand, without an instant for reflection, are distressing 

beyond measure and humiliating to agony." He "re- 

1 XI, 423. J XI, 424. 


tired worn out with fatigue." The tact of his friends, 
who probably perceived his condition, somewhat allevi 
ated his misery, "but my catarrh and excessive kind 
ness drive me to despair." l At Cincinnati, there were 
more processions, more crowds, and another open-air 
address delivered from the balcony of the hotel, in re 
sponse to the welcome of the mayor. "My answer 
was flat, stale, and unprofitable, without a spark of 
eloquence or a flash of oratory, confused, incoherent, 
muddy, and yet received with new shouts of welcome." 
At Cincinnati also he heard from the committee on 
arrangements that he was to deliver an address on the 
spot where the stone was laid, as well as the oration. 
This address was unexpected and of course unprepared. 
He had to write it at night. 

"Worn down with fatigue, anxiety and shame, as I 
was, and with the oppression of a catarrhal load upon my 
lungs, I sat up till one in the morning, writing the address, 
which, from utter exhaustion, I left unfinished, and retired 
to a sleepless bed. I fear I am not duly grateful to Divine 
Providence for the blessing of these demonstrations of 
kindness and honor from my countrymen." The next 
day it rained in torrents. It rained so hard that it wet 
through the manuscript from which Mr. Adams read 

XI, 425. 


when the stone was laid, and the oration had to be 
deferred. He finally delivered it on November 10, in 
the largest church in the city, crowded to suffocation. 
Mr. Adams then spoke for about two hours, as he 
observed with satisfaction, without a " symptom of 
impatience or inattention" among the audience. There 
was good reason for attention. An intelligent audience 
could hardly have been inattentive, for the oration is a 
gem. It can still be read with delight, Although it bears 
the marks of the pressure under which it was written. 
Its arrangement is defective and its termination abrupt, 
but notwithstanding these defects it probably remains the 
most compact, suggestive, and imaginative essay upon 
astronomy, in the language. Had the author enjoyed 
the strength and leisure to revise it, it would have taken 
its place as a classic beside the " Weights and Measures." 
Receptions awaited him as he ascended the Ohio, the 
last of which, at Pittsburg, he found " inexpressibly irk 
some." "These mass meetings, at which I find myself 
held up as a show, where the most fulsome adulation is 
addressed to me face to face in the presence of thousands, 
- all this is so adverse to my nature that ... I am like 
one coming out of a trance or fainting fit, unconscious of 
what has been passing around me." 1 

1 XI, 438. 


From Pittsburg he travelled by stage coach to Cumber 
land, the weather was excessively cold, and on leaving 
Pittsburg on November 21, he admitted to himself that 
he was dangerously ill. "The stamina of my constitution 
are sinking under the hardships and exposures of travelling 
at this season and at my time of life. . . . My racking cough 
all last night left me scarce an hour of sleep, and no 
repose. I was up at three and again at four, and wrote 
on the arrears of this diary from that time till seven." 

At Union-town "I passed a night of torture, with a 
hacking and racking cough, and feverish headache. I 
went to bed at 9, and was up with fits of coughing at 11, 
at 1, at 3, and at 5 this morning, and finally lay till 
near 6 utterly dispirited." Sixty-two miles of hard stage 
riding over the national road lay between him and 
Cumberland. "My expedient to husband my strength 
till I can get home is abstinence ... I ate nothing the 
whole day." l 

What impression John Quincy Adams made upon the 
philosophical and educational tendencies of his generation 
cannot be determined, but probably he acted powerfully 
upon his age. Astronomy, for example, which in 1825 
was the laughing stock of Congress, became before his 
death the pampered pet of the nation. Certainly no 
MS. 22 Nov., 1843. 


American statesman, save Franklin, has done more for 

Nevertheless men seldom attain precisely that for 
which they strive by the means they use ; ordinarily the 
result of their efforts differs from their anticipation. It 
may have been so with Mr. Adams touching this Cin 
cinnati journey. He risked his life to stimulate science. 
Perhaps in this direction he may have accomplished less 
than he had hoped, but the political effect of his astound 
ing progress through Ohio was prodigious. He left 
Congress a radical whom the conservatives had narrowly 
failed to expel. He returned a broken old man, but one 
before whom the South quailed. He had no illusions. 
He frankly admitted to himself that, in substance, he had 
committed suicide for the sake of science. He wrote on 
the day on which he passed his own door, November 
24, 1843: "I have performed my task, I have executed 
my undertaking, and am returned safe to my family and 
my home. It is not much in itself. It is nothing in the 
estimation of the world. In my motives and my hopes, it 
is considerable. The people of this country do not suffi 
ciently estimate the importance of patronizing and pro 
moting science as a principle of political action ; and the 
slave oligarchy systematically struggle to suppress all 
public patronage or countenance to the progress of the 


mind. Astronomy has been especially neglected and 
scornfully treated. This invitation had a gloss of showy 
representation about it that wrought more on the public 
mind than many volumes of dissertation or argument. I 
hoped to draw a lively and active attention to it among 
the people, and to put in motion a propelling power of 
intellect which will no longer stagnate into rottenness. 
I indulge dreams of future improvement to result from 
this proclamation of popular homage to the advance 
ment of science . . . But I return to my home with the 
symptoms of speedy dissolution upon me. I had no con 
ception of the extent to which I have been weakened by 
this tussis senilis, ... or old man s cough. My strength 
is prostrated beyond anything that I ever experienced 
before, even to total impotence. I have little life left 
in me." To this sentence my father has appended 
this note. "There can be little doubt that this statement 
is substantially true. Mr. Adams had much overtaxed 
his physical powers in this trip." My grandmother was 
aghast when she saw him. On the 25th, one day later, she 
wrote to my father, "Your father, my dear Charles, has 
returned in a state of debility and exhaustion beyond 
description." She called in the family physician who, 
she reported, thought his symptoms "very dangerous," 
and she begged my father to visit her friend, Dr. Jacob 


Bigelow, and ask him to send immediately "a few lines 
intimating the necessity of prudence," or her husband s 
impatience of control might be fatal. But it was of no 
avail. John Quincy Adams perfectly appreciated his 
predicament and what he had deliberately done. He was 
unrepentant. Had the opportunity been open to him to 
roll time backward like Hezekiah on the dial of Ahaz, 
and to re-live his visit to Niagara, knowing all that had 
happened, his choice would still have been the same. 
The only reply he made to his wife when she pleaded 
with him was : "It would be a glorious moment for me to 
die, so let it come." And it did come. 

On August 15, 1846, he returned to Quincy from 
Washington. The next morning was Sunday, and on 
waking he wrote the following species of supplication or 
prayer which is, in effect, his farewell to life. 

"Quincy, Sunday, August 16th, 1846. Blessing, 
praise, and supplication to God on first rising from bed 
on returning to my earthly home, after an absence of 
nine months in the public service of my country. Some 
discouragement of soul follows the reflection that my 
aspirations to live in the memory of after-ages as a 
benefactor of my country and of mankind have not 
received the sanction of my Maker; that the longing 
of my soul through a long life to be numbered among the 


blessings bestowed by the Creator on the race of man is 
rejected ; and after being trammelled and counteracted 
and disabled at every step of my progress, my faculties 
are now declining from day to day into mere helpless 
impotence. Yet at the will of my heavenly Father why 
should I repine?" 

Like Moses, and a host of other idealists and reformers, 
John Quincy Adams had dreamed that, by his inter 
pretation of the divine thought, as manifested in nature, he 
could covenant with God, and thus regenerate mankind. 
He knew that he had kept his part of this covenant, even 
too well. In return, when it came to the test, God had 
abandoned him and had made Jackson triumph, and to 
Adams, Jackson was the materialization of the principle 
of evil. Jackson was, to use Mr. Adams own words when 
he was asked to attend at Harvard when the University 
made Jackson a Doctor of Laws, "a barbarian who could 
not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell 
his own name." And more than this, Jackson embodied 
the principle of public plunder, which Adams believed to 
be fatal to the hopes of posterity as well as to those of 
his own generation. As we can perceive now Mr. Adams 
had utterly mistaken the probable sequence of cause and 
effect. He had labored all his life to bring the democratic 
principle of equality into such a relation with science and 


education that it would yield itself into becoming, or 
being formed into, an efficient instrument for collective 
administration. But this was striving after a contradic 
tion in human nature. Education stimulated the desire 
for wealth, and the desire for wealth reacted on applied 
science, thus making, in the language of my brother Henry, 
after 1830, "when the great development of physical 
energies began, all school teaching," that is to say all 
the education which Mr. Adams strove to stimulate, 
learn " to take for granted that man s progress in 
mental energy is measured by his capture of physical 
forces, amounting to some fifty million steam horse 
power from coal. . . . He cares little what becomes 
of all this new power, he is satisfied to know . . . 
that his mind has learned to control them." In short, 
Mr. Adams in fact stimulated an education of waste, 
and what he sought for was an education of con 
servation. But an education of conservation was con 
trary to the instinct of greed which dominated the demo 
cratic mind, and impelled it to insist on the pillage of 
the public by the private man. 

And it was precisely here that Mr. Adams fell a victim 
to that fallacy which underlies the whole theory of modern 
democracy that it is possible by education to stimulate 
the selfish instinct of competition, which demands that 


each man should strive to better himself at the cost of his 
neighbor, so as to coincide with the moral principle that 
all should labor for the common good. The one, as Mr. 
Adams found, meant Jackson and war, the other meant, 
or possibly under another order of society might be made 
to mean, Jesus Christ s kingdom and peace. But Mr. 
Adams found by sad experience that the statesman and 
moralist cannot combine the two. 

To me this supplication of my ancestor, which was to be 
his requiem, is unutterably sad. The old man knew that 
he was dying and that he loft the work, which he had 
hoped to do, undone. Was it through his own fault, or 
because God had betrayed him, or was there no God? 
This much, at least he knew, on that Sunday morning: 
Instead of leaving his country a land of peace and freedom, 
as he had trusted that he might, he left her facing dis 
union and war. To mo his words are an epitome of the 
lamentation of mankind through all the ages, at the fate 
of their efforts to ameliorate their lot on earth. 

On Mr. Adams the irrevocable blow had fallen in the 
election of 1828, and this is how he viewed that social 
revolution, and how it affected him, and how it still 
affects us, and how it may well affect the world forever- 

Since long before the birth of history mankind has 


recognized, consciously or unconsciously, that for them 
the principle of evil has been embodied in the instincts of 
greed and avarice which are the essence of competition, 
and which are, perhaps, the strongest of human passions. 
This lust for wealth or wealth s equivalent, the primitive 
man personified in some malignant demon who fostered 
wars and pests, and who, if left to work without hindrance, 
would make the world a waste. Hence the origin of 
municipal law. For law is nothing but a series of regu 
lations imposed on the strong for the protection of the 
weak, else would the weak be speedily annihilated by the 
sword, or enslaved by conquest. 

But no code of human origin has been satisfactory 
because it has been the work of the strong and has con 
sciously, for the most part, favored their interests, at the 
cost of the weak. Therefore none have worked justice. 
And consequently man has always yearned for a moral 
law which should reflect the thought of a supreme, benev 
olent being, by whose means even-handed justice should 
be done. Such was the vision which Mr. Adams harbored 
and which he explained in the letter to Mr. Edwards 
of Andover which I have quoted. But this was not 
all of the puritan s dream. Mr. Adams knew as a 
practical man that nothing breeds war as does want or 
temptation. Thus were the barbarian incursions on the 


Roman Empire stimulated, and thus was projected 
the attack of England on Spain, in the West Indies. But 
these peoples were under pressure ; never since the world 
was made, had any community been so favored as was the 
American by the gift by Providence of what was practi 
cally, for them, an unlimited store of wealth, which, for 
many generations, would raise them above the pres 
sure of any competition which would be likely to en 
gender war. The only serious problem for them to solve, 
therefore, was how to develop this gift on a collective, 
and not on a competitive or selfish basis. 

Dominant private interests as a motor would be fatal. 
Mr. Adams believed when he entered the presidency that 
this task might be done by an honest executive, relatively 
easily, were he supported by an intelligent and educated 
civil service, who should hold their places permanently, 
who should be true public servants, and who should^ be 
able to devote their whole time, energy, and thought to 
the work. Were a single capitalistic or speculative class 
to get control, the interest of the whole must be sacrificed 
to the few and ancient injustice must prevail. 

For the type of government which Mr. Adams contem- 
lated had necessarily to be one capable of conducting a 
complex organism on scientific principles. The rule 
therefore must be rigid that public office should be a trust 


to be won and held by merit alone. It so chanced that 
John McLean of Ohio had been appointed Postmaster 
General in 1821, a place which controlled more patronage 
and had more political influence than any other office 
under government, and McLean, being an able man and a 
good administrator, had raised his department to a level 
of efficiency never attained before. But McLean was an 
unscrupulous politician and an adherent of Jackson and 
Calhoun, and therefore bitterly hostile to Henry Clay 
and to the whole administration, of which Clay was 
recognized as being the creator. Clay, though a good 
practical political manager, was an honest and a loyal man, 
besides being a gentleman, and Clay understood the situa 
tion and remonstrated, pointing out that however im 
proper it might be for a president to use the civil service 
for selfish purposes, it was worse for him to permit his 
adversary so to abuse it. But although Mr. Adams 
admitted the soundness of this reasoning in theory, he 
was totally incapable of reducing it to practice. He 
could not divest himself of the notion that in dismissing 
an official, he was judging his own cause, and if there 
were a doubt, he must decide against himself. Therefore, 
though finally convinced of McLean s treachery, he let 
him remain in office until General Jackson rewarded him 
by first offering him a seat in his cabinet and then making 


him a justice of the Supreme Court. At length Mr. Adams 
conceded "that the conduct of McLean has been of deep 
and treacherous duplicity." Yet still he allowed him to 
remain. And he did so because he could not bring him 
self to fight his enemy with his own weapons. To have 
done so would have been in his eyes to violate his covenant 
with God. Moreover, as a man, he could not have com 
peted with Jackson for the " spoils." Therefore the tide 
closed over him with hardly a ripple. 

In the election of 1828 Adams was defeated by a 
majority of more than two to one in the electoral college, 
and he retired from office with what constancy he might, 
though he well knew that he had in vain sacrificed himself 
and his friends to his reliance on Providence, in spite 
of the entreaties of all who wished him well, especially 
of Mr. Clay. Even at that early moment he saw in 
glaring distinctness what had happened, and what must 
be the result of the abandonment by God of the American 
people. On the last day of the year Clay and he had a 
sombre interview. "Mr. Clay spoke to me with great 
concern of the prospects of the country the threats of 
disunion from the South, and the grasping after all the 
public lands, which are disclosing themselves in the 
Western States." 

Nothing in later human experience could fit more 


exactly into Henry s theory of the degradation of energy 
than this picture of the fall of the Adams administration 
of 1828, because we have so exact a standard of comparison 
by which to measure it. When the constitution had been 
adopted and the first administration organized, General 
Washington s personality had been so commanding 
that he had raised, as it were, the whole nation to his own 
level, by a sort of miracle of inherent strength ; but after 
General Washington died, the democratic system of 
averages began its work, and the old inequality sank to a 
common level. By 1828, a level of degradation had been 
reached, and it was the level of Jackson. Therefore the 
fall in intelligence and intellectual energy of the demo 
cratic community, in twenty-five years, had exactly 
corresponded to the interval which separated George 
Washington intellectually, from Andrew Jackson. In 
short, it had been terrifying, and so Mr. Adams, who 
perfectly appreciated the catastrophe, felt it. 

Mr. Adams, in 1832, sadly admitted to himself how he 
had imagined "this federative Union was to last for ages. 
I now disbelieve its duration for twenty years, and 
doubt its continuance for five." Mr. Adams estimate of 
time was close, almost as close as Henry s has been in 

Alike, from Mr. Adams point of view or from ours, the 


test had been crucial. Democracy had failed to justify 
itself. Man alone, unaided by a supernatural power, 
could not resist the pressure of self-interest and of 
greed. He must yield to the temptation of competition. 
As Saint Paul said in the Epistle to the Romans, "For 
I delight in the law of God after the inward man : 

" But I see another law in my members, warring against 
the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to 
the law of sin which is in my members." 

And so it has always been. Competition is the law of 
the flesh, and in a contest between the flesh and the 
spirit, in the end the flesh must prevail. 

"O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from 
the body of this death?" 

Above this level of servitude to the flesh, " or competi 
tion, democracy could not rise. On the contrary democ 
racy then deified competition, preaching it as the highest 
destiny and true duty of man. And Mr. Adams himself 
found to his horror that he, who had worshipped education 
and science, had unwittingly ministered to the demon. 
In that case, however innocently, he must have been 
guilty. He had furthered science with all his might. He 
did so still, even to the death. Was he to blame? On 
the other hand there was the alternative of admitting 
that there was no God, no conscious ruler of the universe, 


no unity, and no immortality. Better than to face this 
alternative were infinite and eternal self-abasement. 

All this Mr. Adams had endured, and he insisted in his 
Diary that had he been endowed with the genius to ade 
quately relate what he had seen and suffered during his 
life, he would have converted the most recalcitrant to 
the "law." In fact, he would have influenced no one, 
more than did Saint Paul. Men are not swayed by words 
but by impinging forces, and by suffering. Christ taught 
that we should love our enemies. To compete success 
fully the flesh decrees that we must kill them. And the 
flesh prevails. 


UNLESS my memory fails me it must have been in 
1884 that Mr. Scudder, who was at that time editing 
for Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, asked me 
to prepare for him a volume on Massachusetts, for the 
Commonwealth Series, which should be ready in two 
years. I told Mr. Scudder that I would do what I could, 
if he wished it, but that I had faint hopes of success, for 
I found it impossible to write to order. If I tried so to 
write, I always found myself to be only an amanuensis, 
a clerk who held a pen, it is true, but one who wrote down 
the thoughts of a being over whom he had no control, 
and who often thought thoughts which astonished, not 
to say alarmed me. 

Mr. Scudder declined to take me seriously, but laugh 
ingly rejoined that he would assume that risk if I would 
go ahead. I said no more, but went ahead for two years, 
and at the end of that time I brought Mr. Scudder my 
copy, saying to him : " My worst apprehensions have been 
realized. It won t do for you. I knew it would not 
when I began." Mr. Scudder civilly took my manuscript, 



read it and gave it me back, saying: "You were right. 
It won t do, but I shall recommend the firm to publish it 
all the same." And so he did, and thus I became the 
author of the " Emancipation of Massachusetts," which 
greatly scandalized all the reputable historians of Massa 
chusetts and elsewhere, but none, I fear, more than my 
own brother Charles. 

This, however, was only the beginning of my experience 
with Massachusetts theology, which the orthodox assured 
me I did not comprehend. For in writing that book, I 
had raised within me a devouring curiosity to understand, 
if I could, sundry problems which I have since dealt 
with in the preface to a subsequent volume called "The 
Law of Civilization and Decay," which intimately con 
cerns Henry, for had it not been for him, that book would 
never have seen the light. After printing the "Eman 
cipation," as soon as I could command the time, I began 
my work on my new venture and read theology backward 
to the schoolmen and the crusades, and then I went to 
Europe to try to find something on the spot. I looked at 
countless churches and castles and battlefields, and at 
last I made up my mind that I must go to Palestine. 
That same summer I came home and married, explaining 
to the woman who consented to share my fortunes, which 
were likely to be none of the most brilliant, as I had 


explained to Mr. Scudder, that I was eccentric almost to 
madness, and that, if she married me, she must do so on 
her own responsibility and at her own risk. Like Mr. 
Scudder, she seemed to regard this as a kind of poor joke, 
but, in the end, she found it serious enough. And, like 
Mr. Scudder, she bore the consequences of her bargain 
with patience, and \vandered with me uncomplaining over 
half the earth, going in succession to England, to France, 
to Germany, to Algeria, to Italy, to Egypt, to Syria, to 
Turkey, to India, to Russia, to the West Indies, and to 

And as I wandered, and looked at the remains of the 
past and considered the topography of the lands I had 
visited, ideas came to me as wide as the poles from what I 
had previously supposed such ideas could be. I can see 
myself now as I stood one day amidst the ruins of Baal 
bek, and I can still feel the shock of surprise I then felt, 
when the conviction dawned upon me, which I have since 
heard denounced as a monstrous free silver invention, 
that the fall of Rome came about by a competition between 
slave and free labor and an inferiority in Roman industry. 
The two combined caused a contraction of the currency, 
and a consequent fall in prices by reason of a drain of 
silver to the East, and in this way brought on the panic 
described by Tacitus as occurring under Tiberius, which 


was followed by the adulteration of the denarius under 

When I had thus gathered, as I thought, enough 
material for my immediate wants, we came home, and 
I established myself in my father s old house in Quiricy, 
and I set myself to digest the chaos in my mind, but I 
soon found that to be a far more arduous undertaking than 
I had looked for, and it was more than two years before I 
had brought my theory into anything like a concrete form. 

In the midst of my labors the panic of 1893 broke out 
and I found my private affairs, with those of my brothers 
John and Charles, seriously involved. Not knowing 
what else to do, I telegraphed to my brother Henry, 
who was spending the summer in Switzerland with Senator 
and Mrs. Cameron, to come to me at Quincy, as no one 
knew what might happen and I feared the worst, and 
this although Henry himself was not in the least affected 
by our indiscretions. And Henry, like the good fellow 
and the good brother he was, answered my telegram and 
letter in person, and stayed with me in Quincy, to my 
huge delight. I can see him now as I look out of my 
window, as he used to stroll in the garden toward sunset. 

But I had something else beside my pecuniary em 
barrassment to talk about. I had my incomplete 
manuscript and Henry in my house, and I had no mind 


to lose what was to me such an invaluable opportunity. 
So one day, when we were relatively at leisure, I produced 
my potential book and said to Henry: " Please read this 
manuscript for me and tell me whether it is worth printing 
or whether it is quite mad. Probably there is nothing 
of value in it. But I want to know the fact, and you are 
far saner than I. All the family know it and frankly 
say so." And Henry, like the angel he was, took the half 
legible sheets and read them carefully, and then he said 
to me one day, "Brooks, your book is good and worth 
printing, but I must warn you, it will cost you dear. 
I know not if you have any political or other ambi 
tions, but this will be their death blow. The gold-bugs 
will never forgive you. You are monkeying with a 

"Very good," said I. "That is what I want to know. 
I am not asking whether my book will lead to fortune, 
but whether it is sound history and philosophy or whether 
it is the dream of a maniac." "Your book is not the 
dream of a maniac," said he. "It is an attempt at the 
philosophy of history, and I am inclined to think it 
sound. But, I repeat, you had better not publish. 
You must expect no open support from me. I have no 
vocation for martyrdom. And you will be attacked far 
worse than you were attacked for the Emancipation. 


"So be it," said I. "I have no ambition to compete 
with Daniel Webster as the jackal of the vested interests. 
And, as for me, I am of no earthly importance. I had 
rather starve and rot and keep the privilege of speaking 
the truth as I see it, than of holding all the offices that 
capital has to give from the presidency downward. 
What troubles me is this. I should like to have some 
credit for what I have done, for I have worked hard. 
Supposing I publish, as the world is now, no matter 
how I may protest or what I may say, or what evidence 
I may give, I shall be charged with having written a free 
silver squib. These gold-bugs are not historians nor do 
they care for truth. What they want is success no matter 
how it comes. They could not comprehend if they would, 
nor would they if they could, nor would any of the en 
dowed universities admit, that no man could bring to 
gether such a mass of complicated evidence in the time 
allowed by the pressure of a political campaign. And 
moreover," I continued, "you must admit that history 
gives me no loophole for escape, supposing I tell the truth. 
The course of events from the crusades, and long before, 
leads in direct sequence to the present crisis, and I cannot 
avoid it or alter it. It is there. What can I do?" 

"Of that, you must be the judge," said he. "I have 
given you fair warning. The wisest thing you can do 


for your own interests now or hereafter, is to hold your 
tongue. I shall hold mine, for I do not intend to mix in 
any political scrape of yours. Don t think it." 

To this I rejoined : " Don t you see, Henry, how illogical 
you are? Here have I, for years, been preparing a book 
to show how strong hereditary personal characteristics 
are, while the world changes fast, and that a type must 
rise or fall according as it is adjusted to its environment. 
It is seldom that a single family can stay adjusted through 
three generations. That is a demonstrable fact. It is 
now full four generations since John Adams wrote the 
constitution of Massachusetts. It is time that we 
perished. The world is tired of us. We have only sur 
vived because our ancestors lived in times of revolution. 
Both our grandfather and our great grandfather were 
obnoxious to the gold-bugs of their time. I should hardly 
be true bred, were I loved by those of mine. You 
remember what John Quincy Adams wrote to his father 
when he remonstrated with him, as you remonstrate 
with me. I have heard of a highway robber who, upon 
going to the scaffold was asked, why he had not been 
deterred from leading such a life, by fear of the halter. 
He answered : It is only one disease that we are more 
subject to than others. Elsewhere he added philosophi 
cally, Man can only be what Clod and nature made him. 


And so John Quincy Adams went on to meet his fate. 
You know you think that fate tragic. And so I must 
take my chances. They won t be brilliant, of that be 
sure." "If that is your view/ said he, "go on and take 
your fate, and God be with you, only I have no taste 
that way. My connections lie elsewhere. But my advice 
to you is that if you are resolved to publish, as I think 
you are justified in doing, choose rather a publisher in 
London than here. In London there is a possibility 
that they may take you seriously. Here certainly they 
will not. Passions are running too strong, and the gold- 
bugs have too much at stake." 

If I live forever, I shall never forget that summer. 
Henry and I sat in the hot August evenings and talked 
endlessly of the panic and of our hopes and fears, and of 
my historical and economic theories, and so the season 
wore away amidst an excitement verging on revolution. 
Henry, of course, was much less keenly personally inter 
ested than I, but as he very frankly says in his " Educa 
tion," his instincts led toward silver. My historical 
studies led the same way, as well as my private situation, 
as one of the debtor class. 

A long series of investigations comprising many, many 
centuries, had forced me to the conclusion that humanity 
competes in various ways, by war, for example, in which 


case slavery is apt to follow defeat, and by usury, which 
takes the form of a struggle between debtor and creditor, 
when slavery may also be the fate of the vanquished. 
All of which I have stated at length in the preface to 
Civilization and Decay," and which I only allude to here, 
because it serves to illuminate the working of Henry s 
mind, and shows how he came to "Phase." And, practi 
cally, my inference was this in 1893 : Mostly men work 
unconsciously, and perform an act, before they can ex 
plain why ; often centuries before. Throughout the 
ages it had been the favorite device of the creditor class 
first to work a contraction of the currency, which bank 
rupted the debtors, and then to cause an inflation which 
created a rise when they sold the property which they had 
impounded. The question with me was, how fully was 
I justified in applying these admitted facts of history to 
the crisis of 1893. Beginning with the panic at Rome 
under Tiberius, I had a long list of precedents stretching 
through the crusades to the present time. And the 
common way for many centuries, in which an advance 
after a depression had been secured, was by an adultera 
tion or debasement of the currency, and at a later day 
by an issue of paper. But the 4 men who had usually 
conducted such vast movements had to be supremely 
adapted to the business. 


We then here called them " gold-bugs." The question 
between Henry and me, as I then stated it, was, assuming 
the general law of the past to hold, whether our family 
could keep solvent until relief came, or whether we should 
go under like the Roman peasants or like the British 
yeomen. Henry thought, or was inclined to think, that 
we should be crushed. I thought that, with good luck, 
courage, economy, and patience, we should be able to 
hold on until relief in some form came, and crawl in with 
the bankers on the rise. Which, in fact, we subsequently 
did, but the process stimulated thought. And it was 
then, as Henry has pointed out in his " Education," 
that his great effort at thought began. 

The immediate effect of this stimulant to Henry, of 
which I presently became aware, was in the following 
winter when he wrote as a " communication " to the 
" American Historical Association" of which he was then 
president, the first of the following documents, which 
is also the first of his contributions to scientific history, 
and I think one of the ablest. Afterward he explained 
to me that he had written it as a sort of preface or in 
troduction to my proposed book, which I was then making 
ready to print during the following spring. "For," said 
he, " without something of the sort, one of two things will 
happen to you. Either you will be altogether ignored 


by the old expedient of the conspiracy of silence, or 
you will be attacked with fury." "For," he continued, 
"the teaching profession is, like the church and the 
bankers, a vested interest. And the historians will fall 
on any one who threatens their stock in trade quite as 
virulently as do the bankers on the silver men. So you 
may judge. Certainly, if you succeed, history can no 
longer be taught in the old way." No one before or 
since has stated the ruthlessness of scientific history more 
pungently and at the same time delicately than has 
Henry in this paper. He has shown how scientific 
history can support no party and no interest. It must 
be a summary of a complex of conflicting forces. But my 
opinion is that this essay went over the heads of his 
audience by about a generation. It would have more 
chance of being appreciated now. Then it was set down 
as an eccentricity without practical application. And so 
it was forgotten. 

The next summer I passed at Quincy in putting 
"Civilization and Decay" through the press, a process 
which Henry watched with interest. Before it appeared 
here in America, I had sailed for India and I saw Henry 
no more for a year. But. while waiting in Rome for the 
Bombay ship, I received from him the following letter, 
which even then seemed to me a criticism of surpassing 


interest, and which, in the light of the past, seems to me 
now to excel anything which was produced at anywhere 
near that time. 


I write you a line merely to say that I hope to go south 
next week, and you may not hear from me again while 
you are in India. As far as I can see, the scrimmage 
is over. The nations, after a display of dreadful bad 
manners, are settling down, afraid to fight. The gold- 
bugs have resumed their sway, with their nerves a good 
deal shaken, but their tempers or their sense unimproved. 

Cleveland and Olney have relapsed into their normal 
hog-like attitudes of indifference, and Congress is dis 
organized, stupid and childlike as ever. Once more we 
are under the whip of the bankers. Even on Cuba, where 
popular feeling was far stronger than on Venezuela, we 
are beaten and hopeless. . . . 

My turn will come next, and I am all ready and glad 
to get through it. The last six weeks have given me 
much to think about. Were we on the edge of a new and 
last great centralization, or of a first great movement 
of disintegration? There are facts on both sides; but 
my conclusion rather is and this is what satiates my 
instinct for life that our so-called civilization has 
shown its movement, even at the centre, arrested. It 
has failed to concentrate further. Its next effort may 
succeed, but it is more likely to be one of disintegration, 
with Russia for the eccentric on one side and America 
on the other. . . . 

In either case, the next great conclusive movement 
is likely to take at least one full generation, If, as I 


think, we move much faster than the Romans, we have 
more ground to rover, and fewer outside enemies to fear. 
As I read the elder Pliny, I am struck by the astonishing; 
parity between him and you. He came about a hundred 
years after the military age ended, and the police age 
began. You write just eighty years after the same 
epoch. Pliny died in the year 79. Three hundred years 
afterwards Ammianus Marcellinus closed his history 
with the death of Valens and the practical overthrow of 
Roman civilization, in 378. Allowing for our more rapid 
movement we ought still to have more than two hundred 
years of futile and stupid stagnation. I find twenty too 
much for me. 

The process of turning a machine like ours round a 
corner will be dangerous in proportion to its sharpness, 
but neither its dangers, nor its successes, nor its failures 
seem to me now to be worth living to see. Nothing can 
come of it that is worth living for ; nothing so interesting 
as we have already seen ; and nothing better to say. 
I understand that your book has been exhausted in 
New York for some time, and that Macmillan is waiting 
for more copies. The longer we can keep it working 
under ground the better. If it once gets notorious, as 
it well may, under the blessed pressure of the gold standard 
which turns even defeats into victories for us, I want 
you to print it in a cheap form for popular reading. It 
is, as I have always told you, the Bible of Anarchy. God 
knows what side in our politics it would help, for it cuts 
all equally, but it might help man to know himself and 
hark back to God. For after all man knows mighty little, 
and may some day learn enough of his own ignorance to fall 
down again and pray. Not that I care. Only, if such is 
God s will, and Fate and Evolution let there be God ! 


Anyway I have been correcting and annotating a copy in 
case you want my suggestions for your next edition. . . . 
But just now the gold-bugs have got their loans and 
foreign policy, and the next presidency safe, as far as I 
can see, and I shall go fishing. 

I go with the easier temper because I see that what I 
want is really their right game, and what they get is 
merely a prolongation of the anarchy now prevailing. 
Not one question has been settled. All the old, and 
several new ones, are as active as ever, and more virulent. 
Our revolt has been a slave insurrection, but we have given 
our masters a mauvais quart d heure, and cost them a 
very pretty sum of hard money. And above all, I have 
had my fun. 

Ever yours, 

Henry was as good as his word. He did annotate a copy 
of the London edition which I now have before me, and 
which served to help me in the preparation of the Mac- 
millan edition which appeared the next year, but he did 
more than this. He conceived the idea that I should 
publish a French translation, and for that purpose he 
annotated a copy of the Macmillan edition, elaborately, 
and never rested until I went to Paris and, near him, 
superintended the translation and publication of an 
edition in 1899, which I tried to make as exhaustive and 
as exact as possible. But even this did not satisfy him. 
He complained to me that my preface was imperfect 
and that it should be more scientific. " Don t you see, 


Brooks," he would say to me again and again, as he sat 
in my house in Paris, "that you, with your lawyer s 
method, only state sequences of fact, and explain no 
causes? Granting that your sequences are correct, 
and I believe they are, and that your law is sound, which 
I am willing to suppose, you do not tell us why man has 
been a failure, and could be nothing but a failure. You 
only show that he has failed. 

"To leave human development where you do is hardly 
satisfactory nor is it surely scientific history. If there 
be a God and a consequent unity, man should confess him. 
Then indeed he may have a chance of steady advancement 
toward perfection. But, if there be no unity and on the 
contrary only multiplicity, he can only develop into that 
chaos of which he forms a part. Therefore," he would 
say, "you should write a scientific summary." 

But such a task was beyond me. Therefore, I declined 
Henry s suggestion to join him in Paris and work at the 
scheme which he proposed, and went back to my old life 
in America. From that time Henry lost interest in my 
further publications, though he continued faithfully to 
read them, but always with the same complaint, "that 
1 got nowhere." On the other hand he took up "scientific 
history" himself, and soon became immersed in it. Nor 
could it have been otherwise with a man of his energy of 


mind. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries are the most 
fascinating portions of the life of the modern world and 
Henry luxuriated in them. The result may be read in 
"Mont St. Michel and Chartres," and while I have 
permitted myself to criticise some aspects of that book, I 
conceive it to be, on the whole, by far the greatest attempt 
at a historical generalization that exists in any language. 
Meanwhile he was reading pure science with all the 
avidity of John Quincy Adams when he prepared his 
" Weights and Measures," and when I visited Washington, 
as I did each winter, I went straight to Henry s house and 
we plunged into a talk which was apt to last till near 
morning. That was in the beginning, but as time elapsed 
I noticed a change come over him, which troubled me. 
His nerves seemed to lose their firmness. He complained 
that "he could not be agitated," and that if we talked 
late, he could not sleep. And so he came rather to shun 
me, seeming to prefer women s society, in which he could 
be amused and tranquillized. Notwithstanding this slight 
estrangement, I well knew that his scientific studies 
went on, and I awaited with anxiety the result. For 
a scientific theory is worthless unless applied to facts, 
and although I was delighted with "Mont St. Michel and 
Chartres," I felt it to be but one third of his task were he 
to be understood. Another volume ought to take him to 


the Reformation, and a third to our own day, I hoped to 
our grandfather, on whom we had labored together and 
on whom I had failed, because probably, I did not under 
stand the scientific side of my subject. If any one could 
succeed with him, it would be Henry. 

But Henry, after "Mont St. Michel," drifted off into his 
" Education," in which, as I warned him to weariness, I 
feared that he had attempted too much. I told him that 
he had tried to mix science with society and that the 
public would never understand his scientific theory. He 
insisted that he could make his theory plain. And then, 
before he had time to go further, he had his illness, and, 
to my eternal regret, he will never now go on to fill the 
gap which he has left. And, for that reason, I am making 
this meagre effort. 

Regarded philosophically, Henry s life is, in effect, a 
continuation of his grandfather s ; he is part of a large 
intellectual movement and his life is, to a certain degree, 
mixed with my own. I try, as well as I can, to put them 
all together. My grandfather speaks for himself. My 
books, at best, are but a poor epitome of what would have 
been Henry s monumental exposition to sustain and 
prove his philosophy, but I have no better to offer. 

I have now ended my review of the facts which, taken 
in the connection with those related in Henry s Auto- 


biography, explain, as I hope, the nature of the environ 
ment which, at a given moment, produced the phe 
nomenon of Henry s mind in a typical New England 
family like that of my father. But in order that this 
intellectual inheritance as a sequence may be incisive, I 
apprehend that I should at the close of my story present 
a summary, since, as I have elsewhere pointed out, 
generalizations of this description resemble the fragments 
of a mutilated inscription which cannot be read until 
the scattered stones have been set in a predetermined 
order. In this case the work is the easier because we are 
concerned with the rise and progress of American democ 
racy, and the beginning of the movement as well as the 
form it took and the standard which must serve as the 
measure of its advance or recession in intellectual power, 
is to be computed according to the personality of George 
Washington, who, without doubt, stands at the apex of 
democratic civilization. 

Thus, the model and the standard of John Quincy 
Adams was George Washington, and to him it was from the 
very outset clear that, if the democratic social system 
were capable of progression upward to a level at which it 
could hope to ameliorate the lot of men on earth, it must 
tend, at least, to produce an average which, if it did not 
attain to the eminent ability of the first President, might 


at least be capable of understanding and appreciating 
his moral altitude. 

In every civilization there are, as Saint Paul pointed 
out, two principles in conflict, the law, or the moral 
principle, and the flesh, or the evil principle ; and the 
flesh is, in a general way, incarnated in the principle of 
competition, which, rooted in the passions of greed, avarice, 
and cruelty, is apt to prevail to an unendurable degree 
unless restrained by law. And it is to regulate and restrain 
competition that human laws have been and are still 
devised. Washington had already formulated in his 
mind, even before he first assumed the presidency, an 
elaborate theory of how a diffused community might be 
built up into a consolidated and efficient unity ; and, 
stated concisely, his theory amounted to this, comprising 
both material and intellectual concentration. The first 
requisite was to suppress competition among the parts, 
that is, to keep order ; and, to keep order, there must be 
a centre of energy whose will must dominate. Govern 
ments, according to Washington, are not accidents, they 
are growths, and growths which may be consciously 
fostered and stimulated, or smothered, according as more 
or less intelligence is generated in the collective brain. 
The material energy is collected at the heart of the 
organism, which is the central market or seat of exchanges, 


and which can only be successfully developed at the point 
of convergence of the main highways or arteries of com 
merce, which nourish the provinces. Washington judged 
that, in the example before him, the natural highways or 
paths of least resistance were the rivers, which, with their 
tributaries, drained the Mississippi Valley, and which, by 
a canal, might be connected with the Potomac and there, 
at a point where bulk had to be broken, at their junction 
with ocean navigation, might generate a capital of the 
first magnitude. The point he selected was the site of 
the present city of Washington, whose influence, inci 
dentally, should convert Virginia because of her resources 
in iron and coal into an industrial community, and thus 
into a free state. But Washington s conception of 
national life and national progression did not stop here. 
He felt strongly that the national intelligence must keep 
pace with the national accumulation of wealth, and to 
this end a national system of education should be crowned 
by a national university, which should be the chief in 
strument for the stimulation of thought. Without such 
an instrument he doubted if the standard of democratic 
intelligence could be made to rise rather than to fall. 

As I have already insisted, perhaps to satiety, this 
grandiose conception of Washington broke down for 
several reasons. In the first place, lacking the stimulus 


of his mind, the community, as a whole, could not be 
brought to the point of building its own highways, but 
left their location and construction to private competition. 
Thus the line of the Ohio and the Potomac, instead of 
becoming the bond which should bind North and South 
together, became the line of cleavage ; and the cotton gin, 
by causing the growth of slaves to become, for the moment, 
more profitable than the development of its iron and coal, 
turned Virginia into a slave stock-farm, thereby making 
the Civil War inevitable. 

Mr. Adams sought to vitalize Washington s policy 
during his administration, and failed. Defeated in 1828, 
no sooner was the election a thing of the past than he fell 
to measuring, to satisfy his own mind, the space through 
which democracy had fallen during his own lifetime, and 
he found the degradation appalling. In 1832 Congress 
asked John A. Washington to permit the body of General 
Washington to be removed from Mount Vernon and 
entombed under the Capitol. Washington declined. 
Thereupon Mr. Adams made this comment: "I did wish 
that this resolution might have been carried into execution, 
but this wish was connected with an imagination that 
this federative Union was to last for ages. I now dis 
believe its duration for twenty years, and doubt its 
continuance for five." In fact, the Union was dissolved by 


secession in 1861, precisely twenty-nine years, which 
is a contraction of span representing a fall of potential, as 
Henry would call it, from infinity to zero. And the cause 
of this shrinkage is clear. The original union and the 
original administrative system of the government was, as 
far as so complex an organism might be, the product of 
Washington s single mind and of his commanding per 
sonality. Hardly had Washington gone to his grave 
when the levelling work of the system of averages, on 
which democracy rests, began. And it worked in all its 
parts with freedom and success. Domestic competition 
could hardly have been more thorough and consistent. 
And the result was war and disunion. Nor has peace 
on a democratic basis ever been established in the South 
since. Another generation passed and Mr. Adams 
grandson, in 1870, sat in the gallery of Congress and lis 
tened to the announcement of Grant s cabinet. He has 
recorded his impressions. He blushed for himself because 
he had dreamed it to be possible that a democratic 
republic could develop the intellectual energy to raise 
itself to that advanced level of intelligence which had been 
accepted as a moral certainty by Washington, his own 
grandfather, and most of his grandfather s contemporaries 
in the eighteenth century, and whose dreams and ideas 
he had, as he describes, unconsciously inherited. He 


understood at length, as his ancestor had learned, that 
mankind does not advance by his own unaided efforts, 
and competition, toward perfection. He does not auto 
matically realize unity or even progress. On the con 
trary, he reflects the diversity of nature. It is the contrast 
between the ideal of the kingdom of heaven, peace and 
obedience ; and the diversity of competition, or, in other 
words, of war. Democracy is an infinite mass of con 
flicting minds and of conflicting interests which, by the 
persistent action of such a solvent as the modern or 
competitive industrial system, becomes resolved into what 
is, in substance, a vapor, which loses in collective intel 
lectual energy in proportion to the perfection of its ex 

Another twenty-five years were to elapse, and the theory 
was advanced that the economic centre of the world de 
termined the social equilibrium, and that this international 
centre of exchanges was an ambulatory spot on the earth s 
surface which seldom remained fixed for any considerable 
period of time, but which vibrated back and forth accord 
ing as discoveries in applied science and geography 
changed avenues of communication, and caused trade 
routes to reconverge. Thus Babylon had given way to 
Rome, Rome to Constantinople, Constantinople to Venice, 
Venice to Antwerp, and finally, about 1810, London 


became the undisputed capital of the world. Each 
migration represented a change in equilibrium, and, 
therefore, caused a social convulsion. At the outset 
this theory was derided. Such theories always are. But 
toward the period of the Boer War it was suggested that 
the supremacy of London appeared to be vacillating, 
and then it was taken more seriously. Indeed, by that 
time, the symptoms had become pretty convincing. They 
had first been noticed as far back as the panic of 1890 in 
London, which ruined the Barings. That local panic 
was followed by a contraction which induced the panic 
of 1893 at home, with which I have already dealt, and 
by 1900 there were symptoms of instability which sug 
gested that the economic capital of civilization was 
already tending to shift toward America. The relative 
production of pig iron, for example, was significant. 
Nor were these the most alarming phenomena. England 
betrayed feebleness in the face of the attack of German 
competition, which had been growing fiercer ever since 
the consolidation of Germany after the War of 1870. 
But if these facts were true, and they could not be seriously 
denied, it was evident, on inspection, that civilization 
stood poised on the brink of a portentous crisis. For if 
the centre of exchanges, which had been stationary in 
London ever since Waterloo, should migrate either east 


or west, either to New York or to Berlin, a conflict 
must ensue which would shake the whole world, since 
all the world had become a part of an organic whole, 
by reason of the intense stimulation of movement. No 
one, however, suspected that the catastrophe was immi 
nent. I suggested its date myself as probably about 
1930, but no one took me seriously. It actually came in 
1914. Alone Henry, in "Phase," which he sent me two 
years before the war broke out, in 1912, elaborated a 
mathematical theory by which he predicted the catas 
trophe, before the event. Even I, then, thought he was 
exaggerating. I earnestly refer the reader, who may be 
interested, to "Phase." 

As Henry neared the end of his application of the 
development of the thirteenth century according to 
scientific historical theory, in "Mont St. Michel and 
Ohartres," he turned more and more toward his next step 
in the "Reformation," on which he constantly talked 
with me. He found the "Reformation" most antago 
nistic, chiefly, I think, because of the Puritan attack on 
women; for it was during the Reformation that the 
Virgin was dethroned and, according to his theory, I 
take it, that the degradation of woman began. For it 
is precisely here that I wish to point out a legal and 
philosophical distinction one which hinges, as Henry 


explains in the " Letter to Teachers," on the distinction 
between reason and instinct. Now as a lawyer and as a 
historian, I insist that society, as an organism, has little 
or no interest in woman s reason, but its very existence 
is bound up in her instincts. Intellectually, woman s 
reason has been a matter of indifference to men. As an 
intellectual competitor she has never been formidable; 
but maternity is a monopoly. It is the passionate in 
stinct which is the cause and the effect of maternity, 
and which enables women to serve their great purpose as 
the cement of society. As an intellectual being, as the 
modern feminist would make her, she has only the im 
portance of a degraded boy, though she is far more danger 
ous to society than such a boy would be, who would be 
relatively harmless. 

It was, perhaps, during discussions such as these, that 
Henry grew curious to test the thought of the scientific 
world, and accordingly he wrote toward 1910 his " Letter 
to Teachers," which I then thought, and think even more 
strongly now than then, to have been the ablest exposition 
of the scientific theory of the degradation of energy and 
of the issue between intellect and instinct which has ever 
been made. If, as I have good reason to infer, the 
reception which this little book met with among the 
class to whom it was sent, was a disappointment to 


Henry, in so far as it left them indifferent, it had at least 
a very great effect on me. I found, among other things, 
that if Henry had written this essay as a commentary 
upon his ancestor s life and fortunes, it could not have 
been more absolutely to the point, and this pleased me 
the more and was to me the more remarkable and con 
vincing, as I do not imagine that Henry had, when he 
wrote it, John Quincy Adams at all in mind as a text 
for his discourse. I have only now to beg such of my 
readers as may be interested in these questions to read 
my account of my ancestor s misfortunes, in his dealing 
with democracy, and then turn to Henry s essay es 
pecially where, as for example on page 156, he goes into 
the question of the "degradation of energies"; or what 
he has to say on the relation of instinct to reason, when 
it comes to a consideration of the feminine question, on 
page 203. "The mere act of reproduction, which seems 
to have been the most absorbing and passionate purpose 
of primitive instinct, concerns history not at all," page 200. 
Certainly it does not concern the modern feminist, who 
repudiates such an instinct as unworthy of a civilized 
and educated modern woman, and by so doing announces 
herself as incapable of performing the only function in 
modern society which has the least vital importance to 
mankind. I come now to the consideration of "Phase," 


which is an attempt by means of a mathematical formula, 
based on the facts of past events, to determine the date 
at which social revolutions may occur ; and to me this 
effort of Henry s is of intense, I may say of painful, in 
terest. But it is also a sphere of his work in which I 
feel least competent to accompany him. I am inclined 
in " Phase" to surrender my judgment completely to 
his. This I say at once frankly. Some dozen years or 
more before " Phase" was produced the theory was ad 
vanced by me and was more or less accepted by Henry 
in the approval which he gave in general to " Civilization 
and Decay." 

Henry, in " Phase," reached a conclusion which even 
I thought exaggerated. He in 1912 named the year 
1917 as the date at which a probably revolutionary 
acceleration of thought would take place, and in fact 
in that year America was drawn into the war by the re 
sistless attraction of the British economic system, and 
to-day Great Britain and America, like the parts of some 
gigantic saurian which has been severed in a prehistoric 
contest, seem half unconsciously to be trying to unite 
in an economic organism, perhaps to be controlled by a 
syndicate of bankers who will direct the movements of 
the putative governments of this enormous aggregation 
of vested interests independent of the popular will. 


And this brings me to the somewhat alarming task of 
considering Henry s forecast in "Phase," of the world s 
possible future. For though it is generally conceded 
that the outlook for civilization is murky, Henry s calcu 
lation suggests that its catastrophe may be actually at 

Assuming that we are still in the mechanical phase, 
and using the same formula which he used in his estimate 
touching the year 1917, Henry finds that we may probably 
enter the "ethereal phase" in 1921, or in somewhere 
about two years from the present time, when thought 
will reach the limit of its possibilities. How such an 
age would express itself must be to most of us problemat 
ical, since, according to Henry, only a few highly trained 
and gifted men will then be able to understand each 
other; but attempting to translate such hypothetical 
thought into ordinary legal or political terms, the more 
we reflect upon what we see going on about us, the less 
unreasonable such a limit of time becomes. Supposing 
thought to indeed reach its limit, and action to correspond 
to the intensity of the acceleration of thought, as it al 
ways hitherto has done, we reach a social condition which 
is already to a certain degree indicated. 

For some years past many symptoms seem not ob 
scurely to indicate that we tend to sink into that chaos 


of democratic mediocrity which Henry likens to the ocean, 
where waters which have fallen to sea level are engulfed, 
and can no more do useful work. In such an ocean 
tempests are generated by the operations of usurers, and 
such tempests are apt to be stilled by massacres, such as 
have become to us familiar of late, in countries like Armenia. 

In view of what has occurred within these four or five 
years, such a forecast for 1921 now would be less astonish 
ing than would a forecast of what we now behold have 
been, had it been made in 1912. Viewed impartially, 
we present the aspect of a society in extremely unstable 
equilibrium, which is being attacked on every hand by 
potent forces from without, and which is yet being preyed 
on from within by a destructive tumor. 

It is only needful to glance, for a single instant, at the 
imbecility which democracy presented at Paris in its efforts 
to make a peace with Germany, to become conscious of 
the external pressure. Recently, in New York, Mr. Gary 
in a speech admitted that the war now closing had been 
an effect of competition. This fact, which has been 
patent from the outset to every observant mind, was 
at first hotly, not to say angrily, denied by the banking 
fraternity, lest they should be held responsible therefor, 
and thereby restrained in their action. Since Mr. Gary s 
speech, however, the fact of its having been an economic 


war may, probably, be assumed to be admitted. But 
an economic war is the fiercest and most pitiless of all 
wars, since to make a lasting peace in competition implies 
either the extermination or enslavement of the vanquished. 
If the vanquished is to be conciliated, that is to say, to 
be restored to a position in which he can act as a freeman, 
he must be granted rights which will enable him to com 
pete on equal terms with the victors, and the old con 
ditions will be automatically revived. That is to say 
there must be a still more bitter struggle within a genera 
tion, at furthest. 

Now this dilemma is not easy to solve. To exterminate 
ninety millions of Germans would be a difficult task, even 
for a conqueror like Jenghiz Khan, or as stern a Roman 
as Oato. With the modern democratic sentiment, it 
probably could not be done. Enslavement would be 
little, if any, better. In the first place, to enslave so large 
a part of humanity is very expensive because of the cost 
of maintaining an adequate guard, and secondly, slavery 
has been found, ever since the days of Rome, to decisively 
degrade the masters. Not that the present standard 
of democratic intelligence needs or could well withstand 
much degrading. It is only necessary to compare the 
personnel of the present commissioners at Paris with 
that of the Congress of Vienna after Waterloo to be as- 


sured of the movement. Nor was the Congress of Vienna 
either a wonderfully intelligent or successful body. Still, 
they shone with brilliancy in comparison with what we 
now have. Or take, as an illustration of the same phe 
nomenon, the commissioners who were sent by Mr. 
Madison to Ghent to negotiate the peace with England 
in 1814, and they stand in relation to the present Ameri 
can delegation at Paris in pretty much the same position 
in which General Washington s cabinet stood to the 
cabinet of Jackson. It is a subject for meditation. 

The upshot has been that, because of this incapacity, 
the bankers have apparently found it necessary to take 
the settlement of a peace out of the hands of the nominal 
political authorities and come to some agreement among 
themselves. What that agreement is we do not know, 
and perhaps may never know, save as events discover it 
in the future, but of this we may be certain : it will be an 
arrangement which will conduce to the further dominance 
of the great moneyed interests. 

And yet, serious as this situation may appear to be in 
the light of the present unstable social equilibrium, it is 
naught beside the terrors \vhich threaten our society, as 
at present organized, by the unsexing of women. Since 
the great industrial capitalistic movement began through 
out the modern world toward 1830, the modern feminist 


has sought to put the woman upon a basis of legal equality 
at which she would be enabled, as it was thought, to be 
come the economic competitor of man. At length, after 
nearly a century, and as one of the effects of the recent 
war, she seems to have succeeded in her ambition. So 
far as possible the great sexual instinct has been weakened 
or suppressed. So far as possible it is now ignored sys 
tematically in our education. Woman is ashamed of her 
sex and imitates the man. And the results are manifest 
enough to alarm the most optimistic and confiding. The 
effect has been to turn enormous numbers of women into 
the ranks of the lower paid classes of labor, but far worse, 
in substance, to destroy the influence of woman in modern 
civilization, save in so far as her enfranchisement tends 
to degrade the democratic level of intelligence. The 
woman, as the cement of society, the head of the family, 
and the centre of cohesion, has, for all intents and purposes, 
ceased to exist. She has become a wandering isolated 
unit, rather a dispersive than a collective force. 

Already the working of the poison is apparent in our 
system of law, and it is appalling. The family principle 
has decayed until, as a legal conception, it has ceased to 
exist. The father has no authority, the wife is absolutely 
independent and so are the children, save so far as the 
state exerts a modified control, as in the matter of edu- 


cation. The graduated tax seeks to equalize the earning 
power of the individual, and the inheritance tax confiscates 
accumulations to the state. The advanced feminist 
claims for the woman the right to develop herself accord 
ing to her own will. She may decline to bear children, 
or, if she consents, she is to bear them to whom she may 
choose. Such conditions, if carried out logically, must 
create chaos. If so, the state must regulate such matters, 
and the woman must be required to serve the state by 
bearing children as the man serves the state in the army. 
The state must assume the education and cost of children, 
when so born, and must subsequently employ them at 
an average wage, all thus being put on an equality. 
Such is the manifest direction in which the efforts of our 
advanced feminists tend. 

It may be very confidently assumed, however, that such 
efforts will only result in the enslavement of the weaker 
or the poorer class. The rich and fortunate usurer will 
always enjoy exemption from all regulations which in 
convenience him, even as they do now throughout the 
world. We have seen the working of the democratic 
system during the recent war. The bankers, as a class, 
stayed at home, and the management of all business, and, 
above all the fixing of prices, fell automatically into the 
hands of those who were the strongest. As John Quincy 


Adams discovered in 1828, democracy would not permit 
the ablest staff of officials, to be chosen by him, to ad 
minister the public trust. Democracy, on the contrary, 
has insisted on degrading the public service to a common 
level of incapacity, thereby throwing the management 
of all difficult public problems, such as the use of rail 
roads and canals, into private hands, in order that they 
might escape ruin, and thence has come the predicament in 
which we, in particular, and the world at large, now stand. 
The democratic principle of public conduct has always 
been "that to the victor belongs the spoil," and public 
property has been administered accordingly. It is the 
system of averages or of levelling downward. We see 
it in the trade union. The wage is fixed according to 
the capacity of the feeblest workman, precisely as the 
pace of the regiment is fixed by the walk of the slowest 
horse. But under nature s system of competition the 
opposite tendency prevails, and prevails to a terrible 
excess, even to the excess of war. And social war, or 
massacre, would seem to be the natural ending of the 
democratic philosophy. Viewed thus, Henry s estimate 
of time seems not to be beyond the limit of probability, 
but whether right or wrong, in point of time, the ultimate 
conclusion seems to be, sooner or later, humanly speaking, 
a certainty. 


Lastly, I have one word more touching that profoundest 
of problems, Is this universe purposeful or chaotic, 
particularly as viewed in the light of astronomy ? 

Mr. Adams always loved and promoted astronomy, 
for, as a young man, he doubted not that he saw therein 
the working and the purpose of the divine mind. As 
he aged, doubts gathered, and I have quoted his diary, X, 
39, to show whither his mind tended at seventy-one. Had 
he lived, he might well have reached the ground taken 
by his grandson in " Phase," who used the comet as the 
emblem of chaos. (" Phase," p. 300, et seq.) But Mr. 
Adams always adored order and loathed the very idea 
of chaos. Yet he died for astronomy, the science of 
chaos. Such is human effort and prescience. 1 

1 If the reader is interested in scientific chaos, I refer him to Simon 
Newcomb s "Astronomy for Students," Second Edition, Chapter VII, 
Cosmogony, page 492, et seq. 



GUADA -C-JARA, December 12, 1894. 

DEAR SIR : I regret extremely that constant absence 
has prevented me from attending the meetings of the 
Historical Association. On the date which your letter 
mentions as that of its first decennial I shall not be 
within reach. I have to ask you to offer my apology to 
the members, and the assurance that at that moment I 
am believed to be somewhere beyond the Isthmus of 
Panama. Perhaps this absence runs in some of the 
mysterious ways of nature s law, for you will not forget 
that when you did me the honor to make me your president 
I was still farther away in Tahiti or Fiji, I believe 
and never even had an opportunity to thank you. Evi 
dently I am fitted only to be an absent president, and 
you will pardon a defect which is clearly not official, but 
a condition of the man. 

I regret this fault the more because I would have liked 
to be of service, and perhaps there is service that might be 
usefully performed. Even the effort to hold together the 
persons interested in history is worth making. That we 
should ever act on public opinion with the weight of one 
compact and one energetic conviction is hardly to be 
expected, but that one day or another we shall be com 
pelled to act individually or in groups I cannot doubt. 
With more anxiety than confidence, I should have liked 

1 A communioation to tho American Historical Association, as 
President of the Association. 



to do something, however trifling, to hold the association 
together and unite it on some common ground, with a full 
understanding of the course which history seems destined 
to take and with a good-natured willingness to accept or 
reject the result, but in any case not to quarrel over it. 

No one who has watched the course of history during 
the last generation can have felt doubt of its tendency. 
Those of us who read Buckle s first volume when it 
appeared in 1857, and almost immediately afterwards, in 
1859, read the Origin of Species and felt the violent 
impulse which Darwin gave to the study of natural laws, 
never doubted that historians would follow until they 
had exhausted every possible hypothesis to create a 
science of history. Year after year passed, and little 
progress has been made. Perhaps the mass of students 
are more skeptical now than they were thirty years ago of 
the possibility that such a science can be created. Yet 
almost every successful historian has been busy with it, 
adding here a new analysis, a new generalization there; 
a clear and definite connection where before the rupture 
of idea was absolute ; and, above all, extending the field 
of study until it shall include all races, all countries, 
and all times. Like other branches of science, history is 
now encumbered and hampered by its own mass, but its 
tendency is always the same, and cannot be other than 
what it is. That the effort to make history a science 
may fail is possible, and perhaps probable ; but that it 
should cease, unless for reasons that would cause all 
science to cease, is not within the range of experience. 
Historians will not, and even if they would they can not, 
abandon the attempt. Science itself would admit its 
own failure if it admitted that man, the most important 
of all its subjects, could not be brought within its range. 


You may be sure that four out of five serious students of 
history who are living to-day have, in the course of their 
work, felt that they stood on the brink of a great gen 
eralization that would reduce all history under a law as 
clear as the laws which govern the material world. As 
the great writers of our time have touched one by one the 
separate fragments of admitted law by which society 
betrays its character as a subject for science, not one of 
them can have failed to feel an instant s hope that he 
might find the secret which would transform these odds 
and ends of philosophy into one self-evident, harmonious, 
and complete system. He has seemed to have it, as the 
Spanish say, in his inkstand. Scores of times he must 
have dropped his pen to think how one short step, one 
sudden inspiration, would show all human knowledge ; 
how, in these thickset forests of history, one corner 
turned, one faint trail struck, would bring him on the 
highroad of science. Every professor who has tried to 
teach the doubtful facts which we now call history must 
have felt that sooner or later he or another would put 
order in the chaos and bring light into darkness. Not so 
much genius or favor was needed as patience and good 
luck. The law was certainly there, and as certainly was 
in places actually visible, to be touched and handled, 
as though it were a law of chemistry or physics. No 
teacher with a spark of imagination or with an idea of 
scientific method can have helped dreaming of the immor 
tality that would be achieved by the man who should 
successfully apply Darwin s method to the facts of human 

Those of us who have had occasion to keep abreast of 
the rapid progress which has been made in history during 
the last fifty years must be convinced that the same rate 


of progress during another half century would necessarily 
raise history to the rank of a science. Our only doubt 
is whether the same rate can possibly be maintained. 
If not, our situation is simple. In that case, we shall 
remain more or less where we are. But we have reached 
a point where we ought to face the possibility of a great 
and perhaps a sudden change in the importance of our 
profession. We cannot help asking ourselves what 
would happen if some new Darwin were to demonstrate 
the laws of historical evolution. 

I admit that the mere idea of such an event fills my mind 
with anxiety. When I remember the astonishing influence 
exerted by a mere theorist like Rousseau ; by a reasoner 
like Adam Smith ; by a philosopher, beyond contact with 
material interests, like Darwin, I cannot imagine the 
limits of the shock that might follow the establishment 
of a fixed science of history. Hitherto our profession has 
been encouraged, or, at all events, tolerated by govern 
ments and by society as an amusing or instructive and, 
at any rate, a safe and harmless branch of inquiry. But 
what will be the attitude of government or of society 
toward any conceivable science of history? We know 
what followed Rousseau ; what industrial and political 
struggles have resulted from the teachings of Adam Smith ; 
what a revolution and what vehement opposition has 
been and still is caused by the ideas of Darwin. Can 
we imagine any science of history that would not be vastly 
more violent in its effects than the dissensions roused by 
any one or by all three of these great men ? 

I ask myself, What shape can be given to any science 
of history that will not shake to its foundations some 
prodigious interest? The world is made up of a few 
immense forces, each with an organization that corre- 


spends with its strength. The church stands first ; and 
at the outset we must assume that the church will not 
and cannot accept any science of history, because science, 
by its definition, must exclude the idea of a personal and 
active providence. The state stands next ; and the 
hostility of the state would be assured toward any system 
or science that might not strengthen its arm. Property 
is growing more and more timid and looks with extreme 
jealousy on any new idea that may weaken vested rights. 
Labor is growing more and more self-confident and looks 
with contempt on all theories that do not support its 
own. Yet we cannot conceive of a science of history 
that would not, directly or indirectly, affect all these 
vast social forces. 

Any science assumes a necessary sequence of cause and 
effect, a force resulting in motion which cannot be other 
than what it is. Any science of history must be absolute, 
like other sciences, and must fix with mathematical cer 
tainty the path which human society has got to follow. 
That path can hardly lead toward the interests of all the 
great social organizations. We cannot conceive that it 
should help at the same time the church and the state, 
property and communism, capital and poverty, science 
and religion, trade and art. Whatever may be its orbit, 
it must, at least for a time, point away from some of 
these forces toward others which are regarded as hostile. 
Conceivably, it might lead off in eccentric lines away 
from them all, but by no power of our imagination can 
we conceive that it should lead toward them all. 

Although I distrust my own judgment and look earnestly 
for guidance to those who are younger than I and closer 
to the movement of the time, I cannot be wholly wrong 
in thinking that a change has come over the tendency of 


liberal thought since the middle of the century. Darwin 
led an intellectual revival much more hopeful than any 
movement that can now be seen in Europe, except among 
the socialists. Had history been converted into a science 
at that time it would perhaps have taken the form of 
cheerful optimism which gave to Darwin s conclusions 
the charm of a possible human perfectibility. Of late 
years the tone of European thought has been distinctly 
despondent among the classes which were formerly 
most hopeful. If a science of history were established 
to-day on the lines of its recent development I greatly fear 
it would take its tone from the pessimism of Paris, Berlin, 
London, and St. Petersburg, unless it brought into 
sight some new and hitherto unsuspected path for civiliza 
tion to pursue. 

If it pointed to a socialistic triumph it would place us 
in an attitude of hostility toward existing institutions. 
Even supposing that our universities would permit their 
professors in this country to announce the scientific 
certainty of communistic triumphs, could Europe be 
equally liberal? Would property, on which the univer 
sities depend, allow such freedom of instruction ? Would 
the state suffer its foundation to be destroyed? Would 
society as now constituted tolerate the open assertion 
of a necessity which should affirm its approaching over 
throw ? 

If, on the other hand, the new science required us to 
announce that the present evils of the world its huge 
armaments, its vast accumulations of capital, its advancing 
materialism, and declining arts were to be continued, 
exaggerated, over another thousand years, no one would 
listen to us with satisfaction. Society would shut its 
eyes and ears. If we proved the certainty of our results 


we should prove it without a sympathetic audience and 
without good effect. No one except artists and socialists 
would listen, and the conviction which we should produce 
on them could lead only to despair and attempts at 
anarchy in art, in thought, and in society. 

If, finally, the science should prove that society must 
at a given time revert to the church and recover its old 
foundation of absolute faith in a personal providence 
and a revealed religion, it commits suicide. 

In whatever direction we look we can see no possibility 
of converting history into a science without bringing it 
into hostility toward one or more of the most powerful 
organizations of the era. If the world is to continue 
moving toward the point which it has so energetically 
pursued during the last fifty years, it will destroy the 
hopes of the vast organizations of labor. If it is to change 
its course and become communistic, it places us in direct 
hostility to the entire fabric of our social and political 
system. If it goes on, we must preach despair. If it 
goes back, it must deny and repudiate science. If it 
goes forward, round a circle which leads through com 
munism, we must declare ourselves hostile to the property 
that pays us and the institutions we are bound in duty to 

A science cannot be played with. If an hypothesis is 
advanced that obviously brings into a direct sequence of 
cause and effect all the phenomena of human history, we 
must accept it, and if we accept we must teach it. The 
mere fact that it overthrows social organizations cannot 
affect our attitude. The rest of society can reject or 
ignore, but we must follow the new light no matter where 
it leads. Only about two hundred and fifty years ago 
the common sense of mankind, supported by the authority 


of revealed religion, affirmed the undoubted and self- 
evident fact that the sun moved round the earth. Galileo 
suddenly asserted and proved that the earth moved round 
the sun. You know what followed, and the famous 
"E pur si muove." Even if we, like Galileo, should be 
obliged by the religious or secular authority to recant 
and repudiate our science, we should still have to say as 
he did in secret if not in public, "E pur si muove." 

Those of us who have reached or passed middle age need 
not trouble ourselves very much about the future. We 
have seen one or two great revolutions in thought and we 
have had enough. We are not likely to accept any new 
theory that shall threaten to disturb our repose. We 
should reject at once, and probably by a large majority, a 
hypothetical science that must obviously be incapable of 
proof. We should take the same attitude that our fathers 
took toward the theories and hypotheses of Darwin. 
We may meantime reply to such conundrums by the 
formula that has smoothed our path in life over many 
disasters and cataclysms: " Perhaps the crisis will 
never occur ; and even if it does occur, we shall probably 
be dead." To us who have already gone as far as we set 
out to go, this answer is good and sufficient, but those 
who are to be the professors and historians of the future 
have got duties and responsibilities of a heavier kind than 
we older ones ever have had to carry. They cannot afford 
to deal with such a question in such a spirit. They would 
have to rejoin in Heine s words : 

Also fragen wir bestandig, 
Bis man uns mit einer Handvoll 
Erde endlich stopft die Mauler, 
Aber is das eine Antwort? 


They may at any time in the next fifty years be 
compelled to find an answer, "Yes" or "No," under 
the pressure of the most powerful organizations the world 
has ever known for the suppression of influences hostile 
to its safety. If this association should be gifted with 
the length of life that we all wish for it, a span of a century 
at least, it can hardly fail to be torn by some such dilemma. 
Our universities, at all events, must be prepared to meet it. 
If such a crisis should come, the universities throughout 
the world will have done most to create it, and are under 
most obligation to find a solution for it. I will not deny 
that the shadow of this coming event has cast itself on me, 
both as a teacher and a writer ; or that, in the last ten 
years, it has often kept me silent where I should once 
have spoken with confidence, or has caused me to think 
long and anxiously before expressing in public any opinion 
at all. Beyond a doubt, silence is best. In these remarks, 
which are only casual and offered in the paradoxical spirit 
of private conversation, I have not ventured to express 
any opinion of my own ; or, if I have expressed it, pray 
consider it as withdrawn. The situation seems to call for 
no opinion, unless we have some scientific theory to offer ; 
but to me it seems so interesting that, in taking leave of 
the association, I feel inclined to invite them, as in 
dividuals, to consider the matter in a spirit that will 
enable us, should the crisis arise, to deal with it in a 
kindly temper, and a full understanding of its serious 
dangers and responsibilities. 
Ever truly yours, 



Secretary, etc., American Historical Association. 




1603 H STREET, 

Availing myself of the privilege commonly granted, in 
the liberal professions, to age and seniority, I use the 
freedom of an old colleague in offering this small volume 
for your acceptance. 

Some fifteen years ago, on retiring from the Presidency 
of the Historical Association, I made a short address on 
the relations of the Historical Department to society ; 
and, had such a custom existed, I should have gladly 
enlarged the paper to the dimensions of a Report. The 
volume now sent you, is, in effect, such a Report, un 
official and personal. 

Touching, as it does, some of the most delicate relations 
of University Instruction in rival departments, the book 
has too much the air of provoking controversy. I do 
not know that controversy would do harm, but I see 
nothing to be gained by provoking it. For the moment, 
the problem is chiefly one of technical instruction ; of 
grouping departments ; at most, of hierarchy in the 
sciences. Some day, it may become a question whether 
one department, or another, is to impose on the Uni 
versity a final law of instruction ; but, for the present, 
it is a domestic matter, to be settled at home before in 
viting the world to interfere. Therefore, the volume will 



not be published, or offered for sale, or sent to the press 
for notice. 

For the same reason, the volume needs no acknowledg 
ment. Unless the questions which it raises or suggests 
seem to you so personal as to need action, you have 
probably no other personal interest than that of avoiding 
the discussion altogether. Few of us are required to 
look ten, or twenty years, or a whole generation ahead, 
in order to realize what will then be the relation of history 
to physics or physiology, and even if we make the attempt, 
we are met at the outset by the difficulty of allowing for 
our personal error, which is, in so delicate a calculation, 
an element of the first importance. Commonly, our 
personal error takes the form of inertia, and is more or 
less constant and calculable. For myself, the preference 
for movement of inertia is decided. The risk of error in 
changing a long-established course seems always greater 
to me than the chance of correction, unless the elements 
are known more exactly than is possible in human affairs ; 
but the need of determining these elements is all the 
greater on that account ; and this volume is only a first 
experiment towards calculating their past, present and 
future values. 

Mathematicians assume the right to choose, within the 
limits of logical contradiction, what path they please in 
reaching their results, provided that when they come to 
the end of their process, they consent to test their result 
by the facts of experience. More than this cannot fairly 
be asked of historians. 

If I call this volume a letter, it is only because that 
literary form affects to be more colloquial or more fa 
miliar than the usual scientific treatise ; but such letters 
never require a response, even when they invite one; 


and in the present case, the subject of the letter involves 
a problem which will certainly exceed the limits of a life 
already far advanced, so that its solution, if a solution is 
possible, will have to be reached by a new generation. 
16 FEBRUARY, 1910. 


THE mechanical theory of the universe governed 
physical science for three hundred years. Directly 
succeeding the theological scheme of a universe existing 
as a unity by the will of an infinite and eternal Creator, 
it affirmed or assumed the unity and indestructibility of 
Force or Energy, as a scientific dogma or Law, which 
was called the Law of the Conservation of Energy. 
Under this Law the quantity of matter in the universe 
remained invariable; the sum of movement remained 
constant ; energy was indestructible ; l nothing was 
added ; nothing was lost ; " nothing was created, nothing 
was destroyed. 

Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, that 
is, about 1850, a new school of physicists appeared 
in Europe, dating from an Essay on the Motive Power 
of Heat, published by Sadi Carnot in 1824, and made 
famous by the names of William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, 
in England, and of Clausius and Helmholz in Germany, 
who announced a second law of dynamics. The first 



law said that Energy was never lost ; the second said 
that it was never saved ; that, while the sum of energy 
in the universe might remain constant, granting that 
the universe was a closed box from which nothing could 
escape, the higher powers of energy tended always to 
fall lower, and that this process had no known limit. 

The second law was briefly stated by Thomson in a 
paper "On a Universal Tendency in Nature to the Dissi 
pation of Mechanical Energy," published in October, 
1852, which is now as classic as Kepler s or Newton s 
Laws, and quite as necessary to a scientific education. 
Quoted exactly from Thomson s "Mathematical and 
Physical Papers" (Cambridge, 1882, Vol. I, p. 514), the 
Law of Dissipation runs thus : - 

" 1 . There is at present in the material world a universal 
tendency to the dissipation of mechanical energy. 

"2. Any restoration of mechanical energy, without 
more than an equivalent of dissipation, is impossible in 
inanimate material processes, and is probably never 
effected by means of organized matter, either endowed 
with vegetable life or subjected to the will of an animated 

"3. Within a finite period of time past, the earth must 
have been, and within n finite period of time to come, the 
earth must again be, unfit for the habitation of man as 


at present constituted, unless operations have been, or 
are to be performed, which are impossible under the laws 
to which the known operations going on at present in the 
material world, are subject." 

When this young man of twenty-eight thus tossed the 
universe into the ash-heap, few scientific authorities 
took him seriously ; but after the first gasp of surprise 
physicists began to give him qualified support which soon 
became absolute. "This conclusion made much noise," 
says Ostwald ("L Energie," Paris, 1910) ; "the more be 
cause Helmholz and Clausius gave in their adherence to 
it. We owe to the latter the following formula : The 
Entropy of the Universe, tends toward a maximum." 1 
To physicists, this law of Entropy became "a prodigiously 
abstract conception," according to the familiar phrase 
of M. Poincare ; but to the vulgar and ignorant historian 
it meant only that the ash-heap was constantly increas 
ing in size ; while the public understood little and cared 
less about Entropy, and the literary class knew only that 
the Newtonian universe, in which they had been cradled, 
admitted no loss of energy in the solar system, where the 
planets, at the end of their planetary years, returned 
exactly to their positions at the beginning. Gravitation 
showed no waste of energy whatever, except where friction 
occurred, but had planets gone off like comets, and never 


returned, the scholar of 1860 would still have feared to 
question the scientific dogma which asserted resolutely, 
without qualification, the fact that nothing in nature was 
lost. If no other assurance had satisfied him, all doubts 
were silenced by the famous outburst of eloquence w r ith 
which Tyndall concluded his Lectures in 1862, on "Heat 
as a Mode of Motion." Old men can still recall how, 
after explaining that "the quantity of the solar heat inter 
cepted by the earth is only _-^_r__ of the total 
radiation," Tyndall refrained from telling what became 
of the heat not intercepted by the earth, and went on to 
expatiate with enthusiasm on the unity of the universe 
and its energy : - 

"Look at the integrated energies of our world, the 
stored power of our coalfields ; our winds and rivers ; - 
our fleets, armies and guns! What are they? They are 
all generated by a portion of the sun s energy which does 
not amount to -^-^-.oVoToTo ^ ^ e whole. This, in fact, 
is the entire fraction of the sun s force intercepted by 
the earth, and in reality we convert but a small fraction 
of this fraction into mechanical energy. Multiplying all 
our powers by millions of millions, we do not reach the 
sun s expenditure. And, still, notwithstanding this enor 
mous drain, in the lapse of human history we are unable 
to detect a diminution of his store. Measured by our 


largest terrestrial standards, such a reservoir of power 
is infinite ; but it is our privilege to rise above these 
standards, and to regard the sun himself as a speck in 
infinite extension, a mere drop in the universal sea. 
We analyse the space in which he is immersed, and which 
is the vehicle of his power. We pass to other systems 
and other suns, each pouring forth energy like our own, 
but still without infringement of the law which reveals 
immutability in the midst of change, which recognises 
incessant transference and conversion, but neither final 
gain nor loss. This law generalises the aphorism of 
Solomon, that there is nothing new under the sun, by 
teaching us to detect everywhere, under its infinite variety 
of appearances, the same primeval force. To nature 
nothing can be added ; from nature nothing can be taken 
away ; the sum of her energies is constant, and the utmost 
man can do in the pursuit of physical truth, or in the 
application of physical knowledge, is to shift the con 
stituents of the never-varying total, and out of one of 
them to form another. The law of conservation rigidly 
excludes both creation and annihilation. Waves may 
change to ripples and ripples to waves, magnitude 
may be substituted for number, and number for magni 
tude, asteroids may aggregate to suns, suns may re 
solve themselves into flora and faunae, and florae and 


faunae melt in air, the flux of power is eternally the 
same. It rolls in music through the ages, and all ter 
restrial energy, the manifestations of life as well as 
the display of phenomena, are but the modulations of 
its rhythm." 

This magisterial tone irritated some of the new physicists 
to the point of hinting that Tyndall deliberately mis 
stated the facts of physics, for fear lest some one should 
drive him into a logical snare, ending in the necessity of 
admitting a Creation. In flat contradiction to Tyndall, 
Kelvin and Tait affirmed that "the same primeval force" 
could never be detected, much less recovered ; that 
all nature s energies were slowly converting themselves 
into heat and vanishing in space, until, at the last, noth 
ing would be left except a dead ocean of energy at its 
lowest possible level, say of heat at 1 Centigrade, or 
272 C. below freezing point of water, and incapable 
of doing any work whatever, since work could be done 
only by a fall of tension, as water does work in falling to 

Between such authorities the unscientific student could 
not interfere. Naturally, all his sympathies were with 
Tyndall. The idea that the entire sidereal universe could 
have gone on for eternity dissipating energy, and never 
restoring it, seemed, at the least, unreasonable; while 


the astronomers drew up lists of nebulae by hundreds 
in the very act of generating universes, and the geologists 
showered the theory with rocks in order to show that the 
sun had already reached an age many times greater than 
Thomson was willing to allow it. 

No one knew, although every one explained what had 
caused the inequalities of energy; least of all could the 
historian of human society assert or deny that energy 
could be created or could not be destroyed. The subject 
was beyond his province. Since the Church had lost 
its authority, the historian s field had shrunk into narrow 
limits of rigorously human action; but, strictly within 
those limits, he was clear that the energy with which 
history had to deal could not be reduced directly to a 
mechanical or physico-chemical process. He was therefore 
obliged either to deny that social energy was an energy 
at all ; or to assert that it was an energy independent 
of physical laws. Yet how could he deny that social 
energy was a true form of energy when he had no reason 
for existence, as professor, except to describe and discuss 
its acts ? He could neither doubt nor dispute its existence 
without putting an end to his own ; and therefore he 
was of necessity a Vitalist, or adherent of the doctrine 
that Vital Energy was independent of mechanical law. 
Vitalists are of many kinds. 


"In former times a special force was adduced, the 
force of life. More recently when many phenomena of 
plant life had been successfully reduced to simple chemical 
and mechanical processes, this vital force was derided 
and effaced from the list of natural agencies. But by 
what name shall wo now designate that force in nature 
which is liable to perish while the protoplasm suffers no 
physical alteration? . . . This force in nature is not 
electricity or magnetism ; it is not identical with any 
other natural force, for it manifests a series of character 
istic effects which differ from all other forms of energy. 
Therefore I do not hesitate again to designate as vital 
force this natural agency, not to be identified with any 
other, whose immediate instrument is the protoplasm, 
and whose peculiar effects we call life. The atoms and 
molecules of protoplasm only fulfil the functions which 
constitute life so long as they are swayed by this vital 
force." ANTON KERNKR, "The Natural History of Plants." 

Students who are curious on the subject can consult 
the "Vitalismus als Geschichte und als Lehre," by Dr. 
Hans Driesch (Leipzig, 1905) ; but they will understand 
it little better afterwards than before 1 . For human his 
tory the essential was to convince itself that social energy, 
though a true energy, was governed by laws of its own. 

To the generation of Lord Macaulay and George Ban- 


croft, the problem seemed scarcely serious. They could 
ignore the dispute, since Thomson agreed with Tyndall 
so far as to admit that, for human purposes, the Dissipa 
tion of Solar Energy was so slow as to be indistinguishable 
from Conservation of Energy. The historian never even 
took the trouble to inform himself of the bearings of the 
problem. Indeed at that time, the Universities showed 
a nervous unwillingness to teach philosophy at all, and 
were especially averse to all philosophies of history, 
whether inspired by Hegel or by Comte, by Buckle or 
by Karl Marx. The law that history was not a science, 
and that society was not an organism, calmed all serious 
effort ; and historians turned to the collection of facts, 
as the geologists turned to the collection of fossils. For 
them it was a happy period, and literature profited by it. 

In fact, the problem was by no means simple, and the 
historian might have made himself a very competent 
professor of Physics without the smallest profit to history. 
Kelvin s law asserted the constant dissipation of energy, 
but the process was far more complex than appeared in 
this statement. Energy had a way of coming and going 
in phases of intensity much more mysterious than the 
energy itself. Catastrophe was its law. The sun, ac 
cording to Tyndall, wasted into space practically all its 
energy except an imperceptible portion that happened to 


fall on the earth ; but even this portion was not utilizable, 
for human purposes, to boil a pint of water, at sea-level, 
without assistance. Ice, water, and vapor were phases 
sharply distinct. So the imperceptible portion of solar 
energy which fell on the earth, reappeared by some mys 
terious process, to an infinitely minute measure, in the 
singular form of intensity known as Vital Energy, and 
disappeared by a sudden and violent change of phase 
known as death. Man had always flattered himself that 
he knew or was about to know something that would 
make his own energy intelligible to itself, but he invariably 
found, on further inquiry, that the more he knew, the 
less he understood. Vital energy was, perhaps, an in 
tensity ; so, at least, he vaguely hoped ; he knew 
nothing at all ! 

No one knew anything ; and yet the analogy between 
Heat and Vital Energy, suggested by Thomson in his 
Law of Dissipation, and received by the public with 
sleepy indifference, was insisted upon by the physicists 
in accents that became sharper with every generation, 
until it began to pass the bounds of scientific restraint. 
Already in 1884, Faye, in his " Origin of the World," 
fairly threatened mankind with its doom : - 

"We must therefore renounce those brilliant fancies 
by which we try to deceive ourselves in order to endow 


man with unlimited posterity, and to regard the universe 
as the immense theatre on which is to be developed a 
spontaneous progress without end. On the contrary, 
life must disappear, and the grandest material works of 
the human race will have to be effaced by degrees under 
the action of a few physical forces which will survive man 
for a time. Nothing will remain : etiam periere 

Thus, it seemed, that whatever the universities thought 
or taught, the physicists regarded society as an organism 
in the only respect which seriously concerned historians : 
It would die ! If life was to disappear, the form of Vital 
Energy known as Social Energy, must also, presumably, 
go to increase the Entropy of the Universe, thus proving 
at least to the degree necessary and sufficient to pro 
duce conviction in historians, that History w r as a 
Science. Although Faye settled this point, as a matter 
of thermodynamics, as early as 1884, his successors in 
authority have gone on repeating it with increasing energy 
of expression ever since. To these outbursts of prophecy 
the story will have to recur, but for the moment, the only 
point requiring insistence is that sixty years of progress 
in science have only intensified the assertion that Vital 
Energy obeys the law of thermal energy. The sketch 
of Kelvin s Life and Work by Professor Andrew Gray, 


Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of 
Glasgow, published in 1908, renews the warning in 
almost angry terms. Once more he asserts, as an axiom 
of physics, that all work is done by conversion of one 
energy, or intensity, into another, and a lower: "If 
this conversion is prevented, all processes which involve 
such conversion must cease, and among these are vital 
processes. ... It will be the height of imprudence to 
trust to the prospect, not infrequently referred to, at the 
present time, of drawing on the energy locked up in the 
atomic structure of matter. . . . After a large part of 
the whole existent energy has gone to raise the dead level 
of things, no difference of temperature, adequate to work 
between, will be possible, and the inevitable death of all 
things will approach with headlong rapidity." 

This may serve to represent the very last opinion of 
physicists. The latest expression of metaphysics, for 
the present purpose, shall be taken from the notes 
added by Eduard von Hartmann to the last edition of 
his works, dated in 1904 : 

"If the social consciousness of to-day rebels so strongly 
against the thought that vital processes will come to an 
end in the world, the chief reason is because society has 
indeed absorbed the first principle of thermodynamics, - 
the conservation of energy, but not the second, the 


progressive degradation of energy by dissipation and 
levelling of intensities ; and, in consequence, has erro 
neously interpreted the first law as though it contained 
an eternal guaranty of the endlessness of vital pro 
cesses. ... In reality, the only question is whether, in 
the actual result, the world-process will work itself out 
slowly in prodigious lapse of time, according to purely 
physical laws; or whether it will find its end by means 
of some metaphysical resource when it has reached its 
culminating point. Only in the last case would its end 
coincide with the fulfilment of a purpose or object; in 
the first case, a long period of purposeless existence would 
follow after the culmination of life." (Ausgewahlte 
Werke, vm, pp. 572-573. Leipzig, 1904.) 

Thomson s famous paper on "A Universal Tendency in 
Nature to the Dissipation of Energy" was published in 
1852. Seven years afterwards, Charles Darwin an 
nounced his law of Evolution, which involved a contra 
diction, as von Hartmann implies, to both the laws 
of thermodynamics. Thomson, physicist and mathe 
matician, had thought only of providing the energy 
necessary to move his world ; Darwin, neither physicist 
nor mathematician, took the necessary energy as given. 
Possibly, if he thought about it at all, he assumed the 
Law of Conservation as the mechanical equivalent of 


Lyell s Law of Uniformity ; but he seemed scrupulously 
careful to avoid asserting either principle. On his own 
account he never committed himself to the doctrine that, 


within the geological record, organization had largely 
advanced, or risen to higher powers, but he did assert, 

and permitted his followers to assert much more broadly 


that "the inhabitants of the world, at each successive 


period in its history, have beaten their predecessors in .1^ 
the race for life, and are, in so far, higher in the scale" ; 
meaning probably that they were better fitted to their 
conditions, but conveying the idea that their vital powers 
had risen from lower to higher by the spontaneous struggle 
of the organism for life. This popular understanding of 
Darwinism had little to do with Darwin, whose great 
service, in the field of history, consisted by no means 
in his personal theories either of natural selection, or of 
adaptation, or of uniform evolution ; which might be 
all abandoned without affecting his credit for bringing 
all vital processes under the law of development or evolu 
tion, whether upward or downward being immaterial 
to the principle that all history must be studied as a 

Society naturally and instinctively adopted the view 
that Evolution must be upward ; and Haeckel performed 
the feat of measuring the height of each step from protozoa 


up to man ; but still without further attempt to account 
for the source or the nature of the numerous energies 
implied in the process of elevation. Apparently he felt 
no need of invoking any energy beyond that of uniform 
solar heat, and took for granted the power of all organisms 
to rise in potential by its absorption. 

Thus, at the same moment, three contradictory laws 
of energy were in force, all equally useful to science : 
1. The Law of Conservation, that nothing could be added, 
and nothing lost, in the sum of energy. 2. The Law of 
Dissipation, that nothing could be added, but that In 
tensity must always be lost. 3. The Law of Evolution, 
that Vital Energy could be added, and raised indefinitely 
in potential, without the smallest apparent compensa 

Although the physicists are far from clear in defin 
ing the term Vital Energy, and are exceedingly timid in 
treating of Social Energy, they are positive that the 
law of Entropy applies to all vital processes even more 
rigidly than to mechanical. "Thus it is," says Ostwald 
("L Energie," Paris, 1910, p. 116), "that animated be 
ings always grow old, and never young." As the point 
is pivotal for evolution, it must be understood as admitted 
in the Law of Degradation. One of the latest authorities, 
M. Dastre, professor of physics at the Sorbonne, in his 


volume called "La Vie ct la Mort" (Paris, 1902), lays 
down the dogma in one line: " Vital Energy ends as 
its last term, in thermal Energy." He admits that this 
rule is too absolute ; it has exceptions ; but the exceptions 
are not serious : 

"The cycle of energy ends occasionally in mechanical 
energy (movement), and in some smaller degree, in other 
energies, as for example, in the electric energy produced 
by nervous action and the muscles in all animals ; or in 
functions of special organs, as in the rays, torpedoes, and 
thunder-fish ; or finally in the luminous energy of phos 
phorescent animals ; but these are secondary matters." 
The essential is that the second law of thermodynamics 
rules biology with an authority fully as despotic as it 
asserts in physics. "If chemical energy is the generative 
maternal form of the vital energies, calorific energy is 
the form of waste (dechet), of excrement ; the form which 
is degraded, according to the expression of the phys 
icists. ... In the animal organism, heat is transformed 
into nothing: it is dissipated" (p. 109). "The animal 
world expends the energy which the vegetable world has 
accumulated." The vegetable world draws its energy 
from the sun, and "the animals end by restoring it, in 
the form of dissipated heat, to the cosmic space." 

This teaching is explicit. Animal energies accent and 


emphasize the law of physics that nature, always and 
everywhere, tends to an equilibrium by levelling its in 
tensities. Mechanical energies admit apparent excep 
tions, like gravitation, but animal energies admit none. 
All grow old and die. This is the teaching of physics, 
and although most physicists show caution in defining 
exactly what they mean by vital energy, the law, as they 
announce it, is relentless. For human purposes, what 
ever does work is a form of energy, and since historians 
exist only to recount and sum up the work that society 
has done, either as State, or as Church, as civil or as 
military, as intellectual or physical, organisms, they 
will, if they obey the physical law, hold that society does 
work by degrading its energies. On the other hand, 
if the historian follows Haeckel and the evolutionists, 
he should hold that vital energy, by raising itself to higher 
potentials, without apparent compensation, has accom 
plished its work in defiance of both the laws of thermo 

Down to the end of the nineteenth century nothing 
greatly mattered, since the actual forces could be fairly 
well calculated or accounted for on either principle, but 
schools of applied mechanics are apt to get into trouble by 
using contradictory methods. One process or the other 
acquires an advantage. The weaker submits, but in 


this instance, the difficulty of naming the weaker was 
extreme. That the Evolutionist should surrender his 
conquests seemed quite unlikely, since he felt behind 
him the whole momentum of popular success and sym 
pathy, and stood as heir-apparent to all the aspirations 
of mankind. About him were arranged in battalions, 
like an army, the energies of government, of society, of 
democracy, of socialism, of nearly all literature and art, 
as well as hope, and whatever was left of instinct, all 
striving to illustrate not the Descent but the Ascent of 
Man. The hostis humani generis, the outlaw and enemy, 
was the Degradationist, who could have no friends, be 
cause he proclaimed the steady and fated enfeeblement 
and extinction of all nature s energies ; but that he should 
abandon his laws seemed a still more preposterous idea. 
Never had he asserted them so aggressively, or with such 
dogmatic authority. lie held undisputed possession of 
every technical school in the world, and even the primary 
schools were largely under his control. His second law 
of thermodynamics held its place in every text-book of 
science. The Universities and higher branches of edu 
cation were greatly, if not wholly, controlled by his 
methods. The field of mathematics had become his. 
He had no serious intellectual rival. Few things are 
more difficult than to judge how far a society is looking 


one way and working in another, for the points are shifting 
and the rate of speed is uncertain. The acceleration of 
movement seems rapid, but the inertia, or resistance to 
deflection, may increase with the rapidity, so that society 
might pass through phase after phase of speed, like a 
comet, without noting deflection in its thought. If a 
simpler figure is needed, society may be likened to an 
island surrounded by a rising ocean which silently floods 
its defences. One after another the defences have been 
abandoned, and society has climbed to higher ground sup 
posed to be out of danger. So the classic Gods were 
abandoned for monotheism, and scholastic philosophy 
was dropped in favor of the Newtonian ; but the classic 
Gods and the scholastic philosophy were always popular, 
and the newer philosophies won their victories by de 
veloping compulsory force. Inertia is the law of mind 
as well as of matter, and inertia is a form of instinct ; 
yet in western civilization it has never held its own. 

The pessimism or unpopularity of the law will not 
prevent its enforcement, if it develops superior force, 
even if it leads where no one wants to go. The proof is 
that the law is already enforced in every field excepting that 
of human history, and even human history has not wholly 
escaped. In physics it rules with uncontested sway. In 
physiology, the old army of Evolutionists have suffered 


defections so serious that no discipline remains. A full 
account of the situation would need an amount of knowl 
edge that is now granted to no one ; but the most trifling 
popular science is enough for popular teachers like our 

Every one knows that Darwin owed much of his science 
as well as of his success to Sir Charles Lyell, who sup 
plied him with the doctrine of uniformity and the evidence 
to support it. Darwin s own assumptions or theories 
were quite sufficiently difficult of proof, without adding 
the doctrine of uniformity ; but Sir Charles ability and 
authority carried the point in spite of Kelvin s protest 
that uniformity could not be admitted as possible under 
the second law of thermodynamics. Ly ell s conservative 
system of evolution, resting on several broad assumptions 
of fact, became not merely a physiological, but even more 
a philosophical dogma, and in a literary point of view the 
Victorian epoch rested largely, perhaps chiefly, on 
the faith that society had but to follow where science led ; 

"Move upward, working out tlio Ix aat, 
And lot the ape and tiger die" ; 

in order to attain perfection. An infinite series of 
imperceptible steps, continuous under uniform conditions 
since the earliest traces of organic life, and always tending 


upwards to higher intensities, tensions, potentials, 
according to the growing complexity of the organism, 
had already taken the place of religious dogma, and 
bridged the gap between two phases of thought. 

With a sense of vast relief, the generation which began 
life in 1850, embraced the new creed, not so much because 
it was proved, as because it was convenient ; but it met 
with instant difficulties on the side of the Darwinists 
themselves. The warmest evolutionists were the least 
confident, not only about adaptation and the struggle for 
existence, but also, and chiefly, about uniformity. Heer s 
researches on the arctic flora, already cited by Sir Charles 
Lyell in the tenth edition of his " Principles" (London, 
1867), seemed to upset the law of uniformity from top to 
bottom and to substitute a sweeping law of catastrophe ; 
so that already in 1879, Saporta, in his History of the 
World of Plants, asserted that nothing less than absolute 
revolution in cosmic conditions could account for the 
changes in northern vegetation. During the whole period 
since the eocene, the temperature of the planet had 
steadily declined. "The phenomenon to which the 
lowering of temperature must be referred," said Saporta, 
"is in no way peculiar to Europe ; it has nothing sudden 
about it, or accidental, or transient. We pointed out its 
origin at the end of the eocene ; we have marked its 


progress by its increasing intensity in the polar regions, 
and by its gradual extension thence towards the south. 
At the beginning of the oligocene, the vegetation of the 
northern temperate zone changes character ; new ele 
ments, coming from the north, and marking the first 
progress of a refrigeration, introduce and propagate 
themselves. We have studied the signs of this revolution, 
by means of which the differences of latitude tend little 
by little to accentuate themselves. ... It is impossible 
not to admit, when we consider this march which nothing 
stops, and which continues with moderation and regu 
larity, the influence of a cosmic phenomenon embracing 
the terrestrial globe altogether" (p. 322). The infer 
ence followed : "We recognize from this point of view 
as from others, that the world was once young ; then 
adolescent ; that it has even passed the age of maturity ; 
man has come late, when a beginning of physical decadence 
had struck the globe, his domain." ("Le Monde des 
Plantos," p. 109.) 

Nothing could be more fatal, not to Darwin but to 
Darwin s popular following. As Newton said that he 
was never a Newtonian, so Darwin might perhaps have 
said that he was never a Darwinian, but his popular 
influence lay in the law that evolution had developed 
itself in unbroken order from lower to higher. Kelvin 


had indeed, flatly contradicted this assumption of fact, 
but had done so from the physicist s point of view, as a 
matter of solar heat and terrestrial cooling ; while 
Saporta s studies of vegetation, to everybody s astonish 
ment, so dramatically confirmed Kelvin s mathematics 
that, though the two streams of thought continued to 
flow in opposite directions, Saporta already in 1878 had 
the courage to incline to the "bold suggestion made some 
years ago by Dr. Blandet, and approved by the late M. 
d Archiac," to the effect that, in times before the creta 
ceous, especially well shown in the extravagance of the 
carboniferous, the sun equaled the orbit of Mercury 
in diameter. The long epochs known as the Permian, 
Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Eocene allowed ample 
time for shrinkage before the Miocene first proved by its 
temperate vegetation, that the sun had approached its 
present diameter, and could no longer equably warm the 

Such an adhesion to the law of thermodynamics, only 
twenty years after Darwin and Lyell had established 
their system on the law of Conservation, seemed to strike 
a very serious blow at the theory of upward evolution as 
the world understood it. The violent contradiction 
between Kelvin s Degradation and Darwin s Elevation 
was so profound, so flagrant, so vital to mankind, 


that the historian of human society must be supposed to 
have watched with agonized interest the direction which 
science should take ; since the decision of palaeontologists 
would fatally decide his own. If they should adhere to 
the high authority of-Saporta, the biologists must follow; 
and then the historian of man would find himself facing 
a responsibility such as had never before entered into his 

Thirty years have passed since Saporta published his 
"Monde des Plantes avant 1 Apparition de l Homme," 
and a whole generation has indefatigably collected, dis 
cussed, published and re-discussed the evidences, with re 
sults recorded in a library of books and in a score of great 
geological museums. With the truths that have been estab 
lished or the theories that have been proposed, historians 
need trouble themselves little, or not at all, further than to 
ask what theories are to-day actually taught or are accepted 
by standard authorities. For American purposes, the 
object is best reached by restricting the inquiry to the last 
ten or fifteen years, and, as far as possible, to the schools of 
the European continent, because distance makes both 
teachers and teaching impersonal. Beginning with France, 
the standard authority in geology is said to be Lapparent s 
Treatise (3 vols. Paris, 1906), and to this the inquirer turns 
to ask whether Darwin s ideas, or Kelvin s, have pre- 


vailed in the French schools. The answer is easily 
found : - 

"If there is one fact," says Lapparent (Vol. m, p. 
1951), "that palaeontology, and especially the branch of 
that science which concerns the vegetable world, has put 
in strong evidence, it is assuredly the progressive dimi 
nution of heat in the high latitudes of our globe." Among 
a number of explanations suggested, none satisfied all 
the conditions except that of M. Blandet, the diminu 
tion of the apparent diameter of the sun. "Outside of 
this conception, the maintenance of the solar heat is 
absolutely inexplicable (p. 1954). . . . One cause alone, 
according to the laws of thermodynamics, is capable of 
preserving the solar energy without appealing to the quite 
inadequate help of outside sources ; this is the phenom 
enon of condensation in the sun. By the means of such 
condensation, the calorific power of the sun is able to 
maintain itself without sensible -loss, by means of a lessen 
ing of apparent diameter which would need several 
thousand years to become perceptible to our most delicate 
apparatus. . . . But if, in our days, the sun, reduced as it 
is, undergoes still this movement of concentration neces 
sary to maintain its energy, what must have been the dif 
ference of its dimensions at other epochs from what they 
are now ? Nothing is more logical than this hypothesis, 


and since, while irreproachable from the astronomic 
point of view, it is alone adequate to explain the palaeo- 
t normal phenomena, we think we cannot do better than 
propose it for the adhesion of geologists." 

Nothing could be more innocent in intention, or at least 
in appearance, than this adhesion to the second law of 
thermodynamics, this harmonizing of several great 
branches of science, this unifying of nature ; but its 
consequences to the old law of Evolution and to the 
school of Darwin were beyond disguise. Lapparent 
went on to indicate some of them, and first the necessary 
abandonment of Lyell s law of uniformity : - 

"Lot us content ourselves, then, with indicating the 
possibility of this solution, while affirming, contrary to the 
doctrines of the uniformitarian school, that the ancient 
history of our planet has unrolled itself in the midst of 
external conditions very different from those which now 
surround us." 

While Lapparent offered this theory of solar shrinkage 
us only a possible solution, other geologists were working 
on a corollary to the theory, which has become one of 
the commonest foundations of their teaching. Solar 
shrinkage might perhaps be suggested as a doubtful 
possibility, but terrestrial shrinkage, which rests on the 
same law, seems to be now commonly admitted as a 


reasonably orthodox dogma. Yet terrestrial shrinkage is 
a mere derivative, which involves solar shrinkage as its 
logical and mathematical concomitant. If adopted as a 
fundamental law of geology, it must be admitted as 
a fundamental law of solar physics, since the one is as 
inseparable from the other as a Siamese twin. Naturally 
the theory is not conceded to be true ; no theory is ; - 
but it is convenient ; it is taught ; and the chance is now 
small that any geological physicist will forego the temp 
tation of using M. Blandet s theory as law. 

Fortunately for the old school of geologists, as well 
as for all schools of historians, the few certainties of 
geology as of history are so easily read in opposite senses, 
that, in practice, every teacher can teach and ignore 
- what he pleases. Pure geologists still adhere more or 
less strictly to the uniformitarian creed and reject the con 
clusions of Heer and his followers. Geological physicists 
still teach that if the second law of thermodynamics 
controlled all history from the gaseous nebula to the glacial 
epoch, it has certainly controlled the few days or years 
since the ice-cap retired from the Niagara river. In that 
case, man became the most advanced type of physical 
decadence, no longer at the top but at the bottom of the 
ladder, in face of accelerated extinction. 

At what precise moment the sun reached, under this 


theory, the equilibrium which gave the utmost exuberance 
to organic life, only a specialist can venture to say ; but, 
from the language of their text-books, a reader gathers 
that the energy of vegetable growth is supposed to have 
reached its climax as early as the carboniferous, - 
"pe*riode de luxe, s il en fut jamais" (Saporta, 73);- 
and that when this amazing vegetation lost its wonderful 
power, as shown in the coal-formations (Lapparent, n, 
1027), it was followed by an equally astonishing animal 
growth which lasted into the miocene period. There 
we are told, degradation began ! At the end of the 
miocene, both vegetable and animal forms of life are 
declared to offer proof that the poles could no longer sup 
port their previous exuberance. This teaching assumes 
that the equable temperature, whether high or low, which 
had prevailed from the poles to the equator gave place 
to climatic differences consequent on the sun having 
shrunk towards its present diameter. Nature instantly 
showed the shrinkage of energy. "In spite of the multi 
tude of beings which have disappeared at different epochs," 
says Gaudry ("Essai," 44), "I think that the sum of 
appearances exceeded that of extinctions down to the end 
of the miocene period." The steady decline continued 
until the convulsion of the glacial epoch, when, in the midst 
of a wrecked solar system, man suddenly appeared. 


" Since this great event occurred/ according to Lap- 
parent (in, 1655), "the organic world has enriched itself 
with no new species, but several forms have disappeared, 
among those that surrounded the first men ; and the 
great herbivorous mammals, already on their decline, 
have seen their principal representatives, little by little, 
quit the scene of the world." 

This statement, as a mere statement of fact, seems to 
be accepted as rather unduly mild ; but not yet satisfied 
with admitting that organic geology, like inorganic, 
confirms the dissipation of energy down to the present 
day, M. Lapparent, abandoning all hope that the process 
can ever be reversed, concludes (in, 1961) : "If any new 
term is still to be looked for, it seems as though none 
could be imagined other than an era where the Soul, 
freed from the bonds of matter, should dominate. Except 
for this hope there are none but sombre perspectives in 
sight for all that surrounds us. The progress of the 
emersion of boreal lands seems destined to extend from 
step to step the influence of the polar ice. The sun, 
whose condensation is already far advanced, will soon 
find in the narrowing of its diameter no sufficient source 
for maintaining its heat, and large spots will appear on its 
surface, destined to transform themselves into a dark 
shell. The day when the extinction of the central lumi- 


nary shall be complete, no further physical or physiological 
reaction can take place on our globe, which will then be 
reduced to the temperature of space, and the sole light 
of the stars. But, perhaps, before arriving there, the 
globe will have lost its oceans and its atmosphere, ab 
sorbed in the pores and fissures of a shell whose thickness 
will increase from day to day." 

If one, and by far the most extensive period of terrestrial 
history, is already taught in this sense by physicists, all 
biology, including human history, will have also to be re- 
edited by them according to this lugubrious plan ; and 
the University professor of history as it has been hitherto 
understood, will soon have urgent need to make up his 
mind whether to accept or resist it. If he decides to 
accept it, he has only to hold his tongue, and remain 
quietly in the pleasant meadows of antiquarianism, pro 
tected as heretofore by the convenient and sufficient 
axiom of the nineteenth century that history is not a 
science, and society not an organism; but if this resource 
should fail him, his first thought will be to find allies. He 
will seek them among his Darwinist friends, to begin with ; 
but he will scarcely finish the opening chapter of the last 
book on Transformation, Mutation, Inheritance, or 
whatever new name may, as one writer expresses it, 
dissimulate creative or destructive force under the term 


Evolution, without discovering that the familiar, genial 
dispute over the origin of species has turned into a 
sinister and almost lurid battle over the extinction of 
species, for which the Darwinian theories of survival are 
declared inadequate to the point of childishness. 

In the place of minute variations extending over in 
definite time under uniform conditions, he will find that 
views have been put prominently forward which bear 
an alarming resemblance to the second law of thermo 
dynamics. So, one palaeontologist, Dollo, formulated 
in 1893 the law of evolution in three sections, each a 
contradiction to the old law. 1. Development has pro 
ceeded by leaps. 2. It is irreversible. 3. It is limited. 
Another authority, Rosa, gave new form to an old idea, 
by showing how variability proceeds according to a law 
of progressive reduction ; that is to say, every series of 
forms is destined to extinction according to the degree of 
its specialization. Even if this law were not rigorously 
exact, "it is perfectly exact to say that the number and 
extent of variations diminishes as the specialization 
advances." The reader, who marks with some nervous 
ness that Man has certainly advanced by leaps, and that 
his progress seems to be irreversible, seeks at once to know 
whether he shows signs of reaching its limit ; and, for an 
answer, appeals to the only scientific source of information, 
- the anthropologist. 


Unless the inquirer is full of courage, he will be aghast 
at the confusion of responses which his prayer disturbs. 
Yet he knows, if he is an evolutionist, that Darwinians 
have always had trouble over the origin and end of Man. 
To Darwin and Haeckel the difficulties were as great as 
to their successors. The mystery of man was then, and 
still remains, a scientific scandal which has inevitably 
roused bad temper, and sometimes bad manners, even in 
the centres of science itself. Every investigator in turn 
evaded, with more or less dexterity, or broke through, 
with more or less recklessness, the difficulties that sur 
rounded him ; but the difficulties outlived the explana 
tions. The first and most notorious was due to the fact 
that, while the strict theory of evolution from lower to 
higher made it reasonable to assume that man was 
descended from that group of animals which resembled 
him most, and while there was no doubt that the nearest 
group which could be supposed to lead up to him was 
that of the anthropoid ape, the anthropologists instantly 
found so many scientific objections to this line of ascent 
that it had to be abandoned from the start. The skull of 
the young anthropoid, it appeared, had more resemblance 
than that of its adult parent, to the skull of man ; in other 
words, the anthropoid might be a degraded man, but 
man could not be a developed anthropoid. The search 


would have to go much further back, to find some earlier 
mammal with less resemblance to man, and therefore with 
fewer evidences of descent, and less probability of satisfy 
ing the rules of evidence. Each step in the ascent added 
enormously to the difficulties of proof. 

Every evolutionist knows how disastrously this first 
failure affected anthropology ; nor was the case bettered 
for the anthropologist by Cope, who, reasoning from the 
teeth, made man descend from an eocene lemur, and 
through him from the marsupials, without passing 
through any known group of anthropoids at all ; a leap 
backwards covering such vast epochs of unknown time 
and change, only to end in a type much lower than 
that of the despised apes, as to have no more value for 
human history than though, instead of a hypothetical 
lemur, the palaeontologists had offered as an ancestor a 
hypothetical lingula of archean time. 

All this fumbling for an ancestry that should have been 
self-evident, was sufficiently disconcerting to historians 
who cared little what kind of a pedigree was given them, 
but greatly wanted to be sure of it ; and who found them 
selves embarrassed with a primitive man, or probably 
a variety of primitive men, running back without 
intermediate links to a hypothetical, primitive, eocene 
lemur, whom no one but a trained palaeontologist could 


distinguish from a hypothetical, primitive opossum, or 
weasel or squirrel or any other small form of what is 
commonly known as vermin. For the historian, the 
lemur was a grievance. It offered no foundation for any 
theory, whether of conservation, elevation, or degra 
dation, physical or moral. Even the Church had always 
admitted as sound doctrine that God might have used 
more or less consecutive types for his creations ; but be 
tween the hypothetic lemur and the talking man, no type, 
consecutive or other, existed for God to use. 

The historian had certainly a right to complain of this 
Pharaonic command to adopt a lemurian and marsupial 
ancestry, including the duck-billed platypus, and much 
more ; but had he rashly attempted to seek further, he 
might probably have found worse. Indeed, from the 
moment when science had exhausted the whole geological 
series, recent, pleistocene, pliocene, miocene, oligocene, 
and part of the eocene, without coming upon any 
reasonable or respectable ancestor at all, the search had 
become, for the historian s purposes, worse than futile. 
He would do much better to fall back on the mere hope 
that his own historical parentage was lost under the polar 
snows, like the carboniferous forests, where some 
happier anthropoid had been born and bred in temperate 
miocene luxury, to be driven southward before the ice-cap 


which obliterated every trace of him and of his polar Eden 
as he slowly drifted towards the fortieth parallel. Such 
a vague but aristocratic origin would relieve him from 
quartering the arms of the lemur, and might help him 
to suppress the opossum. 

Hoping for the best, he next turns to the last text 
book, say Hopf s "Human Species" (London, 1909), 
- and first notes that it still rests the chief weight of the 
argument, as Cope did, on the teeth, but in a sense that 
startles even a sincerely convinced evolutionist. Among 
the first authorities quoted is Professor Klaatsch of Heidel 
berg : " As in his opinion, man by no means stands at 
the head of all living beings with respect to all parts of 
his organization, so too he considers that the human 
teeth are among the most primitive possessed by any of 
the existing mammals. Had man not sacrificed twelve 
teeth in the course of his gradual development, he would 
now have forty-four, the highest number possessed by any 
land-dwelling mammal." Assuredly, according to actual 
standards of physical beauty, a man and still more a 
woman with forty-four teeth would raise scruples 
about the law of evolution from lower to higher ; but 
the Professor evidently regards the modest number of our 
actual teeth as a decadence; and goes on to say that 
even as to his molars, man "has not progressed beyond 


the stage of development reached by the mammals in the 
tertiary period." Not a step have the physiologists 
advanced in thirty years towards proof of any rise in 
vital energy. Greatly concerned at this evidence of 
feebleness in the evolution of man from the eocene lemur, 
the historian of human society naturally asks what 
human senses show more development than is proved by 
the teeth. Hopf makes no pretence of flattery even on 
this point. "Speaking generally, man, not only in a 
state of civilization, but also the primitive savage, the 
Papuan, for example, has a much less acute sense of 
smell than that possessed by animals" (Hopf, 240). 
Finally, though discouraged, the historian probably in 
quires in what, then, the evolution of man from lower 
to higher is believed to consist ; and he learns that it 
consists in the extraordinary development of the brain, 
with its instruments, the hand, the foot, and the vocal 
organs ; but even the brain is said to show extremely 
slight real differences from that of the higher monkeys 
(Vulpian, " Logons," I860). "The brain has passed 
through evolution in all the branches of the tree of 
mammals ; it is highly circumvolutcd at the extremity of 
certain branches ; sometimes the richness of its circum 
volutions exceeds that of Man" (Topinard, 334) ; but its 
only marked development is in weight, and in number of 
ganglion cells (Hopf, 1G8). 


Inevitably the puzzled historian asks almost stupidly 
whether the anthropologist holds this increase of brain to 
prove evolution from lower to higher, and he receives an 
answer that totally demoralizes him. The weight of the 
brain is not asserted to be a gauge of its energy. Neither 
instinct nor reason is supposed to have any relation to 
the weight of the brain; on the contrary, "in a list of 
seventeen brains, the heaviest known, going from 1729 
to 2020 grams, there are seven lunatics," and only three 
men of science, about whose degree of aberration no 
exact statistics can be reasonably expected (Topinard, 

This is only the beginning of anthropological evolution 
from lower to higher. The anthropologist seems in 
clined to hold that what is called genius has no relation 
with weight of brain; but that, even though it had, 
it would not help evolution, if Arndt is right in asserting 
that superior mental endowment of any kind is a sign 
of degeneration; or if Branca is right in thinking it 
impossible that the progressive enlargement of the human 
brain can go on indefinitely without enfeebling the body 
till it dies out; or if Hopf is right (p. 374), in admitting 
that, in civilized races, increase in intellectual power often 
goes with a narrowing of the jaw and an early loss of the 
teeth, and of the hair, and in women with an inability to 


suckle their children. To complete the picture, the an 
thropologist who hesitates to say in what sense the brain 
should be regarded as proving evolution from lower to 
higher, shows not the least sign of doubt in regard to 
the degree to which Man is specialized, particularly as 
shown by his brain, his hand, his foot, and his vocal 
organs. In fact, according to Louis Agassiz, man is "the 
last term of a series beyond which, following the plan on 
which the whole animal kingdom is built, no further prog 
ress is materially possible" ("De 1 Esprit," p. 34), and 
is, therefore, under Rosa s law of progressive reduction, 
destined to be rapidly extinguished. 

Thus the physical geologist has frankly and finally gone 
over to the side of Kelvin ; the palaeontologist has kept 
him company, or even went before him ; while the anthro 
pologist is somewhat painfully hesitating, obedient to 
the physicists, but trying to remain true to humanity, 
though acutely conscious that the two directions cannot 
be reconciled. For many years M. Topinard has held a 
sort of position as semi-official anthropologist of France, 
but he has become incoherent with age, finding himself 
caught between the irreconcilable contradictions of 
science and sentiment: "The end, as far as concerns 
us, we know," he says in his last volume ("L Anthro- 
pologie," Paris, 1900); "our earth will cease to be 


habitable ; it will grow cold ; will lose its atmosphere 
and its moisture, and will resemble our actual moon. 
Previously, evolution, from progressive will become 
stationary, then regressive. Some day, as Huxley sug 
gests, the lichens, the diatomaceae, the protococcus, will 
perhaps be the only beings adapted to the conditions ; - 
then, nothing !" The picture seems sad enough, yet 
M. Topinard might have added that, according to his own 
palaeontologist authorities, the evolution of life on the 
earth had ceased to be progressive some millions of years 
ago, and had passed through its stationary period into 
regression before man ever appeared ; while M. Topinard 
himself adds (pp. 321, 370) that, "to his stupefaction," 
he has reached conclusions of his own which seem, to 
readers who do not take these opinions too seriously, 
exceedingly like an admission that he finds himself an 
example of the second law of thermodynamics : 

"Yes! there is contradiction between the animal 
man, as he was in a state of nature, and as he has 
maintained himself to our day, and the social man 
such as he ought to be. Yes ! the objective realities of 
science are in contradiction with the subjective aspirations 
of man. Yes ! nature laughs at our conceptions. Society 
has been born of man, and has been built on sand, often 
with only materials of convention. The individual for 


whom it is created is always its worst enemy ; he admits 
it, but will not bend to its necessities." 

Although M. Topinard adhered blindly to the second law 
of thermodynamics in regard to the approaching end of 
the world, and was logically obliged to accept its con 
clusion that all useful work or progress, social or mechan 
ical, depended on inequalities of intensity, endowed with 
energy still left to dissipate, the moment he realizes that 
such inequalities still exist, and that therefore progress 
is still possible, he bewails the fact as an inexplicable and 
unfortunate mystery. Such cross-purposes have become 
almost a standard rule in sociology. They have always 
been the rule in history. 

In the earlier scientific commentaries on the Law of 
Dissipation, astronomers and physicists commonly took 
some little pains to soften the harshness of their doom by 
assurances that the prospect was not so black as it seemed, 
but that the sun would adapt itself to man s convenience 
by allowing some thousands or millions of years to elapse 
before its extinction. This pleasing thought fulness has 
vanished. Geologists, when most generous, scarcely 
allow more than thirty thousand years since the last ice 
cap began its partial recession ; while, quite commonly, 
they insist that their most careful and elaborate estimates 
do not justify them in granting more than a quarter of 


that time to the very incomplete process of clearing away 
the ice and snow from the streets of primitive New York 
and Boston. The cataclysmic ruin that spread over all 
the most populous parts of the northern hemisphere while 
the accomplished and highly educated architects of 
Nippur were laying the arched foundations of their city, 
has, it is true, been partially covered or disguised under 
new vegetation ; but even this brief retrospective re 
prieve is darkened by the earnest assurances of the most 
popular text-books and teachers that they can hold out 
no good reason for hoping that the exemption will last. 
The sun is ready to condense again at any moment, 
causing another violent disequilibrium, to be followed by 
another great outburst and waste of its expiring heat. 

The humor of these prophecies seldom strikes a reader 
with its full force in America, but in Europe the love of 
dramatic effect inspires every line. Compared with the 
superficial and self-complacent optimism which seems to 
veneer the surface of society, the frequent and tragic 
outbursts of physicists, astronomers, geologists, biologists, 
and sociological socialists announcing the end of the 
world, surpass all that could be conceived as a natural 
product of the time. The note of warning verges on the 
grotesque ; it is hysterically solemn ; a little more, and it 
would sound like that of a Salvation army; a small 


natural shock might easily turn it to a panic. Naturally 
a historian is most interested in what concerns primitive 
history, and all the relations of primitive man to nature. 
He takes up the last work on the subject, which happens 
in 1910, to be "Les Premieres Civilisations," by M. 
J. de Morgan, published in June, 1909. M. de Morgan 
is one of the highest authorities possibly quite the 
highest authority on his subject, and this volume 
contains the whole result of his vast study. Unconscious 
of thermodynamics, he treats primitive man as a sort of 
function of the glacial epoch, and ends by telling his 
readers (p. 97) : - 

"The glacial period is far from being ended ; our times, 
which still make an integral part of it, are characterized 
by an important retreat of the glaciers, started long before 
the beginnings of history. It is to be supposed that this 
retreat of the ice is .not definitive, but that the cold will 
return, and with it the depopulation of a part of our globe. 
Nothing can enable us to foretell the amplitude of this 
future oscillation, or the lot which the laws of nature 
destine to humanity. During this cataclysm revolutions 
will occur which the most fecund imagination cannot 
conceive, disasters the more horrible because, while 
the population of the earth goes on increasing every day, 
and even the less favored districts little by little become 


inhabited, the different human groups, crowded back one 
on another, and finding no more space for existence, will 
be driven to internecine destruction." 

M. de Morgan belongs to the most serious class of 
historians, while M. Camille Flammarion, the distin 
guished director of the Meudon observatory, besides being 
a serious astronomer, is also one of the most widely read, 
and most highly intelligent, vulgarizers of science. 
When he reaches the point of describing the solar catas 
trophe in his popular astronomy, he lays bare an enormous 
field for harrowing horrors ("Astronomie Populaire," 
102, 103, Paris, 1905) : - 

"Life and human activity will insensibly be shut up 
within the tropical zones. Saint Petersburg, Berlin, 
London, Paris, Vienna, Constantinople, Rome, will 
successively sink to sleep under their eternal cerements. 
During many centuries, equatorial humanity will under 
take vain arctic expeditions to rediscover under the ice 
the sites of Paris, of Bordeaux, of Lyons, of Marseilles. 
The sea-shores will have changed and the map of the earth 
will be transformed. No longer will man live, no 
longer will he breathe, except in the equatorial zone, 
down to the day when the last tribe, already expiring in 
cold and hunger, shall camp on the shores of the last sea 
in the rays of a pale sun which will henceforward illumine 


an earth that is only a wandering tomb, turning around a 
useless light and a barren heat. Surprised by the cold, 
the last human family has been touched by the finger of 
death, and soon their bones will be buried under the 
shroud of eternal ice. The historian of nature would 
then be able to write : Here lies the entire humanity 
of a world which has lived ! Here lie all the dreams of 
ambition, all the conquests of military glory, all the 
resounding affairs of finance, all the systems of an im 
perfect science, and also all the oaths of mortals love ! 
Here lie all the beauties of earth! -But no mortuary 
stone will mark the spot where the poor planet shall have 
rendered its last sigh !" 

As though to assure the public that he know r s what he 
is talking about, M. Flammarion, who is a practical 
astronomer, goes on with a certain sombre exaltation, like 
a religious prophet, to say that the terrors he predicts 
are of common occurrence in astronomy, and leaves his 
scholars to infer that nature regards her end as attained 
only when she has treated man as an enemy to be 
crushed : - 

"Already we have seen twenty-five stars sparkle with a 
spasmodic light in the heavens, and fall back in extinction 
neighboring death ! Already some of the brilliant stars 
hailed by our fathers have disappeared from the charts of 


the sky, and a great number of red stars have entered 
into their period of extinction !" 

Volumes would be needed if a writer should attempt 
to follow the track of this idea through all the branches 
of present thought ; but, without unnecessarily disturbing 
the labors of anthropology and biology, the merest insect 
might be excused for asking what happens to fellow insects, 
who, like himself, are enjoying the precarious hospitality 
of these numerous solar systems. M. de Morgan and 
M. Flammarion are contented with freezing them ; but 
M. Lapparent takes the loftier view that they will do 
better to become disembodied spirits ; which is even less 
likely to suit either the American professor or the Amer 
ican student, whose ideas of education are exceptionally 
practical. The "soul, freed from the bonds of matter," 
seems to require no education unless in the passive con 
sciousness of pure mathematics and logic, which has 
hitherto been the weakest side of the American student, 
who is averse even to the ingenuous simplicity of 
logarithms and vectors. More than this, the law of 
degradation inexorably implies that, throughout the whole 
series of phases which may intervene in the future as in 
the past, in the dissipation of the higher intensities, a 
sympathetic exhaustion must be expected in all the ener 
gies dependent on the central system, among which, as 


the palaeontologists and physicists have assured us, the 
vital energies are not only the most dependent, but also 
and particularly the most sensitive. Physical or mental, 
they should, according to theory, suffer an accelerated 
decline, and yet their actual position should also show a 
certain lag behind the rate of the central energy. They 
are really worse off than they seem. The soothing vision 
of thousands or millions of years, for the ultimate extinc 
tion of solar energy, protects the Universities to a highly 
inadequate degree from their own extinction in the 
process. All energies which are convertible into heat 
must suffer degradation ; among these, as the physicists 
expressly insist, are all vital processes; the mere tem 
porary approach to a final equilibrium would be fatal ; 
and, among all the infinite possibilities of evolution, the 
only absolute certainty in physics is that the earth every 
day approaches it. No one can be trusted to express 
so much as an opinion about the moment when any 
special vital process may expect to be reduced in energy ; 
man and beast can, at the best, look forward only to a 
diversified agony of twenty million years ; but at no 
instant of this considerable period can the professor of 
mathematics flatter either himself or his students with an 
exclusive or extended hope of escaping imbecility. 

According to some geologists, this view is extravagantly 


almost ridiculously optimistic ; but with the scien 
tific correctness of these opinions, the historian is not con 
cerned. He asks only how far the teaching of his col 
leagues contradicts his own, and how far society sides with 
his contradictors. His question is difficult to answer. 
At first sight he is conscious of no divergence. Society 
has the air of taking for granted its indefinite progress 
towards perfection with more confidence, and some 
times with more dogmatism than in 1830, when Macaulay 
made it a literary law by his famous polemic against 
Southey. Yet the same society has acquired a growing 
habit of feeling its own pulse, and registering its own 
temperature, from day to day ; of prescribing to itself 
new regimes from year to year ; and of doubting its own 
health like a nervous invalid. Granting that the intended 
effect of intellectual education is, as Bacon, Descartes, 
and Kant began by insisting, a habit of doubt, it is 
only in a very secondary sense a habit of timidity or 
despair. To a certain point, the more education, the 
more hesitation ; but beyond that point, confidence 
should begin. Keeping Europe still in view for illustration 
and assuming for the moment that America does not exist, 
every reader of the French or German papers knows that 
not a day passes without producing some uneasy discussion 
of supposed social decrepitude ; falling off of the birth- 


rate ; decline of rural population ; lowering of army 
standards ; multiplication of suicides ; increase of 
insanity or idiocy, of cancer, of tuberculosis ; 
signs of nervous exhaustion, of enfeebled vitality, 
"habits" of alcoholism and drugs, failure of eye-sight 
in the young, and so on, without end, coupled with 
suggestions for correcting these evils such as remind a 
historian of the Lex Poppaea and the Roman Empire 
rather than they prove that careless confidence in itself 
which ought to stamp the rapid rise of social energy 
which every one asserts and admits. A great newspaper 
opens the discussion of a social reform by the axiom that 
there are unmistakable signs of deterioration in the 
race." The County Council of London publishes a 
yearly volume of elaborate statistics, only to prove, accord 
ing to the London Times, that "the great city of to-day," 
of which Berlin is the most significant type, " exhibits a 
constantly diminishing vitality"; and, in almost the 
same breath, other journals exult in showing that the 
globe is rapidly becoming a suburb of the great cities. 
Rarely does the press dwell on proofs of social evolution 
except as shown negatively in decline of the death-rate, or 
of illiteracy, or in relief from pain, and never does the 
statistician or sociologist help the historian to any clear 
understanding of the progress expected as his literary goal. 


The medical profession is singularly shy of pledges. The 
poets are pessimists to a man and to a woman. The 
legislators pass half their time, in Germany, France, and 
England, framing social legislation, of which a large part 
rests on the right and duty of society to protect itself 
against itself, not under the fiction of elevating itself 
from lower to higher, but as in the case of alcohol and 
drugs to protect itself from deterioration by the 
exercise of powers analogous to the power of war. 

According to the sociologists, the most serious symptom 
of all is the extension of philosophical schools founded on 
the supposed failure of society : " The formation of these 
great systems is the sign that the pessimist current has 
reached an abnormal degree of intensity due to some 
perturbation of the social organism. Now we all know 
how they have multiplied in our day. To get a just idea 
of their number and their importance, we have to con 
sider not merely the philosophies which officially profess 
that character, like those of Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, 
etc., but we must also take account of all those which, 
under different names, are the results of the same spirit. 
The anarchist, the esthete, the mystic, the revolutionary 
socialist, even if they do not despair of the future, agree 
with the pessimist in the same sentiment of hatred and 
disgust for whatever is ; in the same need of destroying 


the real, and escaping from it. The collective melan 
choly would not have invaded consciousness to that point 
unless it has taken morbid development ; and in con 
sequence the development of suicide which results from it, 
is of the same nature. All the proofs unite in causing us 
to regard the enormous increase which has shown itself 
within a century in the number of voluntary deaths, as 
a pathological phenomenon which becomes every day 
more menacing." - EMILE DUKKHEIM, "Le Suicide." 
Paris, 1897. 

As yet the press is alarmist with decency, even in Paris 
and Berlin, but at the rate of progress since 1870, the 
press might soon learn to blacken the prospects of human 
ity with all the picturesque genius of Camille Flammarion. 
A little more superficial knowledge is all it needs ; the 
general disposition is already excellent. Meanwhile, 
the teacher of history has fallen out of sight. The 
freedom that was liberally extended to others was denied 
to him. Supposing Kelvin s law, with Lapparent s con 
clusions, and Flarnmarion s illustrations, to be rigorously 
true, and that its truth was admitted in biology as in 
physics, the American professor who should begin his 
annual course by announcing to his class that their year s 
work would be devoted to showing in American history 
"a universal tendency to the dissipation of energy" and 


degradation of thought, which would soon end in making 
America " improper for the habitation of man as he is 
now constituted," might not fear the fate of Giordano 
Bruno, but would certainly expect that of Galileo, even 
though he knew that every member of the Cardinals 
College of professors held the same opinion. The 
University would have to protect itself by dismissing him. 
The truth or the error of the three Laws of Evolution 
does not properly concern the teacher. No physicist 
can, in these days, be expected to take oath that Dalton s 
atoms, or Willard Gibbs phases, or Bernouilli s kinetic 
gases, are true. He uses for his scholars the figure or the 
formula which best suits their convenience. The historian 
or sociologist is alone restricted in the use of formulas 
which shock the moral sense; yet the stoppage of dis 
cussion in the historical lecture-room cannot affect the 
teaching of the same young men in the physical laboratory, 
still less the legislation of their parents at the State 
capital ; it would merely ruin the school of history. 
However much to be regretted is such a result, society 
cannot safely permit itself to be condemned to a lingering 
death, which is sure to tend towards suicide, merely to 
suit the convenience of school-teachers. The dilemma is 
real ; it may become serious ; in any case it needs to be 


The battle of Evolution has never been wholly won ; 
the chances at this moment favor the fear that it may yet 
be wholly lost. The Darwinist no longer talks of Evolu 
tion ; he uses the word Transformation. The historian 
of human society has hitherto, as a habit, preferred to 
write or to lecture on a tacit assumption that humanity 
showed upward progress, even w r hen it emphatically 
showed the contrary, as was not uncommon; but this 
passive attitude cannot be held against the physicist who 
invades his territory and takes the teaching of history 
out of his hands. Somewhere he will have to make a 
stand, but he has been already so much weakened by the 
surrender of his defences that he knows no longer where 
a stand can be made. As a form of Vital Energy he is 
convicted of being a Vertebrate, a Mammal, a Mono- 
delphe, a Primate, and must eternally, by his body, be 
subject to the second law of thermodynamics. Escape 
there is impossible. Science has shut and barred every 
known exit. Man can detect no outlet except through 
the loophole called Mind, and even to avail himself of 
this, he must follow Lapparent s advice, become a dis 
embodied spirit and seek a confederate among such 
physicists or physiologists as are willing to admit that 
man, as an animal, has no importance ; that his evolution 
or degradation as an organism is immaterial ; that his 


physical force or condition has nothing to do with the 
subject ; that the old ascetics were correct in suppressing 
the body ; and that his consciousness is sufficient proof 
of his right to regard Reason as the highest potential of 
Vital Energy. 

The historian, thrown back on this oldest of battle 
grounds, may console himself with the thought that the 
physicists and physiologists are as much embarrassed as 
himself ; but while, in former ages, the world went on, 
after a fashion, trusting to the energy of its archaic 
instincts to make good the lapses of its reasoning powers, 
the external pressure of physical forces, under their 
thermodynamic laws, seems of late to have literally driven 
physical science into an assumption of universal authority, 
so that physiologists can no longer evade the logical 
necessity of framing a stem-history for the mind, as for 
the body or the skeleton ; and since their law tends 
strongly towards monism, unity of energy, they 
cannot supply man with any other energies or laws than 
he inherited from his only known or unknown 
ancestor, the hypothetical eocene lemur. In the system 
of Energetik, Reason can be only another phase of the 
energy earlier known as Instinct or Intuition ; and if this 
be admitted as the stem-history of the Mind as far back as 
the eocene lemur, it must be admitted for all forms of 


Vital Energy back to the vegetables and perhaps even 
to the crystals. In the absence of any definite break in 
the series, all must be treated as endowed with energy 
equivalent to will. 

The idea is very familiar in philosophy ; the strange 
ness consists in its gaining foothold in science. At the 
Congress of the Italian Society for the Progress of Sciences 
held at Parma in 1907, Ciamician, the distinguished 
Professor of the University of Bologna, suggested that 
the potential of Vital Energy should be taken as the 
Will. The step seems logical, and to the historian it 
seems natural. The idea is as old as Aristotle ; any one 
who cares to study its history will find it in Eduard von 
Hartmann s " Philosophic des Unbewussten" (Vol. n, 
pp. 426-439, Leipzig, 1904) ; but, for the actual uses of 
to-day, the story goes back no further than to Schopen 
hauer s famous work, "Die Welt als Wille," which ap 
peared in 1819-1844. Schopenhauer held that all energy 
in nature, latent, or active, is identical with Will. Before 
his time, he claimed, the concept of Will was in 
cluded in the concept of Force ; he reversed the order 
on the ground that the unknown should be referred to 
the known, and that therefore the whole universe of 
energy, known or unknown, of whatever intensity or 
volume, should be brought into the category of intuition. 


The philosophers, even when rejecting the identity of 
Will with Energy, were before long busily coquetting 
with the idea, which offered extraordinary charms to 
inventors of systems. For the historian, Schopenhauer s 
method had the double merit of logically merging the 
two great historical schools of thought. The old idea 
of Form, which ruled the philosophy of Aristotle and 
Thomas Aquinas, slipped readily over the idea of Energy, 
taught by Kelvin and Clausius, so that henceforward it 
mattered little whether the schools, in their rage for 
nomenclature, called the result "Will," or "Entelechy," 
or "Dominant," or "Organic Principle," or "Trieb," or 
"Strebung," or "Intuition," or "Instinct," or just simply 
"Force" as of old; even the forbidden words "Creative 
power" became almost orthodox science; in any case 
the logic of "Will" or "Energetik" imperatively required 
that every conception whatever, involving a potential, 
obliged ontologists to regard the will-power of every 
stem as the source of variation in the branches, and to 
admit, as a physical necessity, that the branch which has 
lost the power of variation should be regarded as an ex 
ample of enfeebled energy falling under the second law 
of thermodynamics. 

Such an arrangement, however convenient for degra- 
dationists, and however tempting to students of palaeon- 


tology in particular, is likely to bring trouble on other 
branches of education. Especially for human history 
its bearings are painfully pointed. Already the an 
thropologists have admitted man to be specialized beyond 
the hope of further variation, so that, as an energy, he 
must be treated as a weakened Will, an enfeebled 
vitality, a degraded potential. He cannot himself 
deny that his highest Will-power, whether individual or 
social, must have proved itself by his highest variation, 
which was incontrovertibly his act of transforming him 
self from a hypothetical eocene lemur, whatever such 
a creature may have been, into a man speaking an 
elaborately inflected language. This staggering but self- 
evident certainty requires many phases of weakening 
Will-power to intervene in the process of subsidence into 
the reflective, hesitating, relatively passive stage called 
Reason ; so that in the end, if the biologists insist on im 
posing their law on the anthropologists, while at the same 
time refusing to admit a break in the series, the historian 
will have to define his profession as the science of human 
degradation. The law of thermodynamics must embrace 
human history in its last as well as in its earliest phase. 
If the physicist can suggest any plausible way of escap 
ing this demonstration, either logically or by mathe 
matics, he will confer a great benefit on history; but, 


pending his decision, if the highest Will-power is con 
ceded to have existed first, and if the physicist is to be 
granted his postulate that height and intensity are equiva 
lent terms, while fall and diffusion are equivalent to 
degradation, then the intenser energy of Will which 
showed itself in the primitive extravagance of variation 
for which Darwin tried so painfully to account by uni- 
formitarian formulas, must have been and must be 
now in the constant process of being degraded and 
lost, and can never be recovered. The process, in physics, 
is not reversible. 

If the historian of human society is to let himself be 
placed in this position, the fact should be understood and 
accepted in advance. In that case, two schools of history 
can be easily organized ; but the effect on other branches 
of instruction is not so simple. Ciamician s suggestion, 
- like Schopenhauer s, like Nietzsche s, like Eduard von 
Hartmann s philosophy, does, no doubt, threaten 
human history with fantastic revolution, but perhaps its 
strangest result is that of converting metaphysics into a 
branch of physics. Nothing in the history of philosophy 
is more distinctly marked than the effort of physics and 
metaphysics, since 1890, to approach each other. Only 
a specialist knows even the titles of the books on this 
subject, in the German language alone; but a beginner 


might perhaps try to get an idea of the process from 
Wilhelm Wundt s well-known " System der Philosophic" 
(Leipzig, 1897). The naturalist now readily admits that 
plants have souls or will-power, but he appropriates 
the soul as an energy of thermodynamics. At first sight, 
the tendency seems towards metaphysics, but the true 
current is the reverse. The chaos is more chaotic than 
ever, but the effort to make the laws of Energetik cover 
all, is perhaps the only very vigorous intellectual activity 
now in evidence. 

Both parties have in consequence appealed to the 
Psychologists, and, under the lead of Ostwald in Ger 
many and of Loeb in America, have created, within the 
last few years, a new literature so extensive as to defy 
all students except advanced specialists. Indeed, almost 
as in mathematics, the specialist himself is rarely equal 
to his task. Every country in the world is contributing 
to the pursuit of psychological laws. In Russia, Krain- 
sky s volume on the "Law of Conservation of Energy 
applied to Psychical Activity " appeared as long ago as 
the year 1897. The amount of intelligence and patient 
research put into the investigation is as great as though 
wealth were its end ; and, though the drift of evidence 
may seem to a historian both clear and strong, he has, as 
yet, no right to hamper the inquiry by inflicting on these 

> V 

;, exceedingly clever and earnest seekers any inquiries of 

his own. At most, in his desperate search for allies to 
protect him from the tyranny of thermodynamics, he 

might timidly ask, not them but himself, whether the 
\ *- * 

new psychology tends towards the possibility that Reason 

may be a more or less remote consequence of Tropism, - 

that is to say, a form of motion excited by exterior forces. 
In itself, this old and very familiar theory, that "nous 
vivons parce que nous sommes excites," is as indifferent 
to sociologists as any other physico-chemical or me 
chanical analogy used for purposes of technical instruc 
tion ; but if it goes to the point of asserting, as an ac 
quired truth, that the motion of the mind is an induced 
motion which follows the laws of electricity, the historian 
of mind in its social variety will find himself seriously 
embarrassed. Without going back to the earlier dis 
cussion of this burning question, an inquirer may allow 
himself to quote the latest form in which the distinguished 
chief of the school states it. Ostwald says : "Between 
psychological and mechanical operations, there seems to 
be nearly the same difference and the same resemblance, as 
between electric and chemical operations" ("L Ener- 
gie." Paris, 1910, p. 210). On this question, Loeb is 
even a higher authority than Ostwald, and his latest 
expressions are still more emphatic. He recognizes no 


such thing as Will: "It seems to me," he says, "that 
it is in the interest of psychology itself to favor the develop 
ment of the theory of tropisms"; and not of tropisms 
alone; "My object is to refer psychical phenomena 
not only to tropisms but also to physico-chemical phe 
nomena" ("La Revue des Id6es," October 15, 1909). 
With the utmost ingenuity and labor he has proved that, 
at least in many low organisms, what is taken for Will 
is really mechanical attraction. 

Loeb s demonstrations are quite beautiful pieces of 
work which rouse high admiration for his powers ; but 
their bearing on his colleagues is obscure. If Thought is 
capable of being classed with Electricity, or Will with 
chemical affinity, as a mode of motion, it seems neces-; 
sarily to fall at once under the second law of thermo 
dynamics as one of the energies which most easily de 
grades itself, and, if not carefully guarded, returns bodily 
to the cheaper form called Heat. Of all possible theories, 
this is likely to prove the most fatal to Professors of 

The dilemma is pointed out by Dr. Hanna Thomson, 
in his book on the Brain, with the emphasis that suits 
its tension:- "Physically the gap between the brain of 
man and the brain of an anthropoid ape is too insig 
nificant to count ; but their difference as beings corre- 


spends to the distance of the earth from the nearest fixed 
star. The brain of man does not account for man? 
What does?" 

The question, thus bluntly posed, is bluntly answered 
in a sense hostile to the physicist law. The brain is de 
veloped by the Will, which lies within and behind the 
brain: " By practice . . . the Will-stimulus will not 
only organize brain-centres to perform new functions, but 
will project new connecting, or, as they are technically 
called, association fibres, which will make nerve- 
centres work together as they could not, without being 
thus associated." The motive-power is not of the brain, 
" because it is the masterful personal Will which makes 
the brain human" by developing one of the brain-hemi 
spheres; and "this Something known as Will," continues 
Dr. Hanna Thomson, "is not natural, but supernatural, 
both in its powers and in its creations." 

Of course the supernatural character of the Will is the 
whole point in dispute, and the usual doctrine of the 
modern psychologist substitutes the word Nature for 
the word Supernatural. Thus Paul Flechsig, concluding 
his address to the Psychological Congress in Rome (1905), 
says that "only by constant, progressive changes in the 
physical form of the brain, has Nature succeeded in at 
taining this truly lofty end. Thus the Will shows organic 


evolution from first to last, and shows in this respect no 
difference from other bodily functions. It is a product 
of organic nature, and, at least in its broadest sense, bears 
that stamp." 

The three views seem far apart, and yet one can con 
ceive that Kelvin, who troubled himself only with the 
practical means of obtaining a fall of potential equivalent 
to the work done, might have seen no necessary contra 
diction to his law in either case : - 

"Quite so!" he might be supposed to reply; "the 
force that Thomson calls supernatural Will, and Flechsig 
calls an organic function, and Loch calls a physico- 
chemical relation, is the force which I call vital Energy, 
and which I agree with Dr. Thomson in regarding as 
supernatural in the sense that nature no longer produces 
it here, more than she produces any other element or atom. 
Physicists are at perfect liberty to regard the Will as 
another name for the same primitive, elementary, un 
explained energy which gave odor to a molecule of copper, 
or made the magnolia burst into flower with more than 
animal sensuality and perfection of form, color, scent, 
and line ; or the caterpillar suddenly soar into the air 
with the amazing, inconceivable sensual properties of 
the butterfly; but the mere brain-mechanism you talk 
about is, in physics, far less extraordinary, as Will, than 


what went before it, creations always growing higher 
in tension as you go backward, like the eye, or the 
innumerable varieties or transformations of the shapes 
which vital energy has taken in every province of the 
vegetable and animal kingdoms, while all are still sub 
ordinate and even trivial when compared with the 
primary creation of energy itself, about which no one 
knows anything except its name, Nature." 

The professor of physics will be shocked at seeing such 
words put into Kelvin s mouth. In that case Kelvin s 
own words will answer almost equally well: " Science 
positively affirms creative power. . . . Modern biol 
ogists are coming once more to a firm acceptance of 
something beyond mere gravitational, chemical, and 
physical forces ; and that unknown thing is a vital prin 
ciple. . . . We are absolutely forced by science to admit 
and to believe with absolute confidence in a directive 
power. . . . There is nothing between absolute scien 
tific belief in creative power, and the acceptance of the 
theory of a fortuitous concourse of atoms. Just think 
of a number of atoms falling together of their own ac 
cord, and making a crystal, a sprig of moss, a microbe, a 
living animal ! " (Life, 1098.) 

Such reasoning in circles helps the historian little to 
make headway against the current of physical energies. 


His dilemma remains untouched. The physicist says 
that Thought is an organic growth which has the faculty 
of determining its own action within certain limits, but 
whose " Freedom" exists only in the atmosphere of ideals. 
By the majority of physiologists, Thought seems to be 
regarded at present as a more or less degraded 
Act, an enfeebled function of Will : - 

"Thought comes as the result of helplessness," says 
Lalande in his volume on "Dissolution" (Paris, 1899. 
p. 106) ; "Thought, as Bain says, is the refraining from 
speech or action. The truth is, therefore, that action 
comes first ; the idea is an act which tends to accomplish 
itself, and which, when stopped by some obstacle before 
its realization, finds a new form of reality in that stoppage. 
Jean Jacques Rousseau said: The man who thinks is 
a depraved animal ; and in this he expressed an exact 
view of psychology. As far as he is animal, the thinker 
is a bad animal ; eating badly ; digesting badly ; often 
dying without posterity. In him the degradation of vital 
energy is flagrant. (La depravation de la nature 
physique est visible chez lui.)" 

The late volume of M. Bergson, "L Evolution Cre*a- 
trice," is the most widely known among the very latest 
efforts of metaphysicians to defend their conceptions 
against the methods of physics ; and yet, on this point of 


Reason and Instinct, M. Bergson seems ready to go further 
than M. Lalande. The whole chapter on Instinct ought 
to be read, and studied in connection with the treatment 
of the same subject by Reinke, in his "Einleitung" 
(Kap. 21), and the source of it all in Eduard von Hart- 
mann s "Unbewusste ;" but a few paragraphs will serve 
to express the present views of the College de France 
about the relative value of phases of life as forces : 

"From our point of view, life appears globally as an 
immense wave which starts from a centre to propagate 
itself outwards, and which is arrested at almost every 
point of its circumference, and is converted into oscillation 
without advance; at one point alone, it has forced the 
obstacle, and the impulse has passed on freely. This 
liberty is registered in the form of man. Everywhere 
except with man, consciousness has been brought to a 
stop ; with man alone it has pursued its road. ... In 
doing so, it is true, it has abandoned not merely the 
baggage that embarrassed it, but has been obliged to 
renounce also some precious properties. Consciousness, 
in man, is chiefly intelligence. It might have been, - 
it seems as though it ought to have been, intuition 
too. . . . Another evolution might have led to a hu 
manity either still more intelligent, or more intuitive. 
In reality, in the humanity of which we make part, intu- 


ition is almost completely sacrificed to intelligence. . . . 
Intuition is still there, but vague, and especially discon 
tinuous. It is a lamp, almost extinguished, which gains 
strength at long intervals, where a vital interest is at 
hazard, but only for a few instants. On our personality, 
on our liberty, on the place we occupy in nature as a 
whole, on our origin, and perhaps also on our destiny it 
casts a feeble and flickering light, but a light which pierces, 
none the less, the darkness of the night in which our in 
telligence leaves us" (pp. 288-289). 

If this is the best that physiology and metaphysics can 
do to help the historian of man, the outlook is far from 
cheerful. The historian is required either expressly to 
assert, or surreptitiously to assume, before his students, 
that the whole function of nature has been the ultimate 
production of this one-sided Consciousness, this ampu 
tated Intelligence, this degraded Act, this trun 
cated Will. As the function of the crystal is to produce 
the order of its cleavage, and that of the rose, the beauty 
of its flower, and that of the peacock, the splendors of 
its tail, and as, except for these purposes, neither crystal, 
rose nor peacock has as much human interest as a thistle 
or a maggot, so the function of man is, to the historian, 
the production of Thought ; but if all the other sciences 
affirm that not Thought but Instinct is the potential of 


Vital Energy, and if the beauties of Thought shown 
in the intuitions of artistic genius, are to be taken for 
the last traces of an instinct now wholly dead or dying, 
nothing remains for the historian to describe or develop 
except the history of a more or less mechanical dissolu 
tion. The mere act of reproduction, which seems to 
have been the most absorbing and passionate purpose 
of primitive instinct, concerns history not at all, except 
as the botanist is concerned with the question whether 
the flower is a developed or degraded leaf ; but the ques 
tion whether the plant exists to produce the flower, or to 
produce the leaf, is vital. The University, as distinct 
from the technological school, has no proper function 
other than to teach that the flower of vital energy is 
Thought, and that not Instinct but Intellect is the highest 
power of a supernatural Will ; an ultimate, independent, 
self-producing, self-sustaining, incorruptible solvent of all 
earlier or lower energies, and incapable of degradation or 

Intellect should bear the same relation to Instinct that 
the sun bears to a gaseous nebula, and hitherto in human 
history it has asserted this relation without a doubt of 
its self-evident truth. The assertion has led to physical 
violence and intellectual extravagance without limit, so 
that history shows man as alternately insane with his 


own pride of intellect, and shuddering with horror at 
its bloody consequences ; but the remains of primitive 
instinct taught society that it could not abandon its 
claim to be, or to represent, a supernatural and inde 
pendent energy, without, by the same act, admitting 
and demonstrating its progressive enfeeblement of will. 
If Intellect led to such an abdication, it proved the uni 
versal truth of the second thermodynamic law. 

From the beginnings of philosophy and religion, the 
thinker was taught by the mere act of thinking, to take 
for granted that his mind was the highest energy of nature. 
Society still believes it, and asserts its supremacy, on no 
other ground, with a sustained force which is the chief 
theme of history, and which showed no sign of relaxation 
until attacked in the eighteenth century in its theological 
or supernatural outposts. Society must still continue 
to act upon it, as the Platonist, the Stoic and the Christian 
did, for the obvious reason that it was and is their only 
motive for existence, their solitary title to their identity. 

History has never regarded itself as a science of sta 
tistics. It was the Science of Vital Energy in relation 
with time ; and of late this radiating centre of its life 
has been steadily tending, together with every form 
of physical and mechanical energy, towards mathe 
matical expression. The torrent of physical energy has 


swept society into its course, until every school, and al 
most every teacher in the world, except perhaps in 
the Church, takes an attitude of instinctive and silent 
hostility to any form of energy that claims to be inde 
pendent. Even though the triumph of this teaching 
is the ultimate degradation of the energy that is taught, 
of the teacher as well as of the pupil and the universe, 
and the more complete his victory, the more rapid his 
degradation, the fault is not his that the radiating centre 
of his world should betray this visible decline of vigor. 

Very unwillingly can he admit Reason to be an energy 
at all ; at the utmost, he can hardly allow it to be more 
than a passive instrument of a physico-chemical energy 
called Will ; an ingenious economy in the application 
of power ; a catalytic medium ; a dynamo, mysteriously 
converting one form of energy into a lower ; but if 
persuaded to concede the intrinsic force of Reason, he 
must still reject its independence. As a force it must 
obey the laws of force ; as an energy it must content itself 
with such freedom as the laws of energy allow; and in 
any case it must submit to the final and fundamental 
necessity of Degradation. 

The same law, by still stronger reasoning, applies to 
the Will itself. 


general reader, though apt to mistake the drift 
of thought, is still rather a better judge of it than 
the specialist can be, and he gets, from the literature of 
the twentieth century in its first decade, a decided im 
pression that educational energy has passed into the 
hands of the physico-chemists and teachers of Energetik 
or thermodynamics. The old Law of Conservation, or 
mechanics, still rules in the workshop, but is somewhat 
lifeless in the scholars if not in the schools. Its teachers 
seem rather inactive, or even indifferent ; yet possibly, 
here and there, one of them may feel uneasy at the 
prospect of actually coming to blows with his brother- 
professors as in the old days of religion. The Law of Con 
servation was an easy one ; it left a reasonable share of 
freedom in the universe ; even astronomers were allowed 
to be devout, and sometimes actually were so ; while in 
strictness, physicists cease to be physicists unless they 
hold that the law of Entropy includes Gods and men as 
well as universes. Nevertheless even a physicist may 
p 209 


occasionally bear in patience with perfectly impartial, 
and, though conservative, yet not unsympathetic by 
standers, who try to act as though the door were still 
open, and who beg only to be told what the new physicists 
are willing to do for mankind. \ What mankind will do for 
itself is quite another matter, since probably all teachers 
admit that, in daily life, society may go on indefinitely, 
quite as well, or as ill, in the future as in the past ; 
but as between schools of education the divergence is 
wide. Possibly the Universities may think it safer to 
ignore the dilemma for another decade or two, as they 
have ignored so many others ; but they would do better 
to reach an understanding if they can, especially because, 
if both parties could be brought into some slight sacrifice 
of principle, and so abate the rigor of their law, the 
compromise might put new life into the school of history, 
which badly needs it. 

For purposes of teaching, the figure is alone essential, 
and the figure of Rise and Fall has done infinite harm 
from the beginnings of thought. That of Expansion and 
Contraction is far more scientific, even in history. Evolu 
tion, again, is troublesome, and has already yielded to 
the less compromising figure of Transformation. Expan 
sion and Transformation are words which commit teachers 
to no inconvenient dogma ; indeed, they are so happily 


adapted for Galileos who are wise enough not to shock 
opinion, that they seem to impose themselves on the 
lecture-room. In strictness, no doubt, water which falls 
and dynamite which expands, are equally degraded 
energies, but the mind is repelled by the idea of deg 
radation, while it is pleased by the figure of expansion. 
Because an energy is diffused like table-salt in water, it 
is not rendered less useful ; on the contrary, it can only 
by that process be made useful at all to an animal like 
man whose life is shut within narrow limits of intensity ; 
who sends for a physician if his temperature rises a 
single degree, and who dies if it rises or falls 5 Centi 
grade ; whose bath must be tempered and his alcohol 
diluted ; and whose highest ambition is to train and 
temper his own brute energies to obey law. Notoriously 
civilization and education enfeeble personal energy ; 
cmollit mores : they aim especially at extending the forces 
of society at cost of the intensity of individual forces. 
"Thou shalt not," is the beginning of law. The in 
dividual, like the crystal of salt, is absorbed in the solution, 
but the solution does work which the individual could not 

Put in this form the law of thermodynamics seems less 
obnoxious. With the change of one word to another, 
the most sensitive evolutionist might not refuse a hearing 


to the physicist who should affirm that organic as well 
as inorganic nature shows a universal tendency to the 
dissipation of energy. At the utmost, the Evolutionist 
would need only to point out that nature, contrary to her 
usually wasteful habits, often teaches extreme economy, 
as when she locks up her energies in atoms and molecules, 
or, what is more to man s purpose, when she trains the 
glow-worm to habits of costless industry that may well 
make the sun veil its face ; but, consenting to pass over, 
for the moment, this restriction on thermodynamic 
extravagance, the Darwinian will perhaps for the sake 
of harmony, concede that, however economical the process 
may be in its details, dissipation of energy is always 
occurring in the mass, and that nature shows no known 
machinery for restoring the energy which she dissipates. 
If the physiologists insist on this concession, the Dar 
winian may perhaps, by way of reaching an issue, content 
himself with allowing it, with only a single, but serious, 

This single restriction concerns the limitations of sci 
ence itself, which has thus far penetrated only the grosser 
operations of nature, and cannot deny that further 
knowledge may and probably will overthrow much 
of the experience of physics. This possibility is constantly 
discussed by the most eminent physicists, and is open to 


endless discussion by physiologists ; but since it is the 
last ground on which the Darwinian can make a stand, he 
will do well to reserve it, on the chance that new scientific 
horizons will open to him. 

Supposing, then, that the physicist takes the lead, and 
seeks for a means of compromise, some middle term, 
on which the elevationist can stand while discussing the 
details of a treaty ! The degradationist can produce 
from his stores of energy a number of figures for choice ; 
- such as that of water, which expands or contracts, 
according to the temperature, or falls according to its 
position ; or electricity, which dissipates itself in work ; 
or of dynamite, which does work by explosion ; or of gases, 
which work restlessly without accomplishing anything ; 
or of table-salt, which dissolves mysteriously in water, to 
help digestion or stimulate appetite ; but possibly he may 
begin with his favorite figure of a gaseous nebula, and may 
offer to treat primitive humanity as a volume of human 
molecules of unequal intensities, tending to dissipate en 
ergy, and to correct the loss by concentrating mankind 
into a single, dense mass like the sun. History would then 
become a record of successive phases of contraction, 
divided by periods of explosion, tending always towards an 
ultimate equilibrium in the form of a volume of human 
molecules of equal intensity, without coordination. 


If this analogy, with its law of phases, should be re 
jected, the physicist might still offer a number of others, 
likening social energy to light, heat, electricity, or radiating 
matter ; in short to any form of physical energy, 
provided it obeyed his second law of thermodynamics, by 
dissipating itself beyond recovery ; but, with the utmost 
good-will, the evolutionist will find himself much em 
barrassed to accept any of these offers. If he is to remain 
evolutionist, and he has no other motive for existence, 
- he is forced to assert, as his most modest claim, the 
concession of two points : 1. That organic life has the 
exclusive power of economizing nature s waste. 2. 
That man alone enjoys the supernatural power of con 
sciously reversing nature s process, by raising her dissi 
pated energies, including his own, to higher intensities. 
That is to say, man must possess the exclusive power of 
reversing the process of extinction inherent in other 
activities of nature. The mere conservation of energy 
would not be enough for him, whatever it is for the glow 

The physicist cannot for a moment be expected to grant 
either of these demands, and is quite likely to be irritated 
by them even to the point of flatly denying any exclusive 
privileges to organic life except in its processes. He is 
capable of going on to question the value of the processes 


too, especially on the point of economy, and of asserting 
that organisms are bad economists compared with in 
organic matter. He will readily admit that some of the 
lower forms of life are economists : the honey-bee, for 
example ; and some caterpillars which store silk, and the 
coral polyp which stores lime, and so forth ; but the vege 
tables do much better, with their starch and chlorophyl 
and carbon, while the ocean and the atmosphere do better 
still by storing heat on an enormous scale, and distributing 
it where man needs it ; many natural minerals store heat 
and light and electricity, and part with them for man s 
uses; the earth itself is supposed to be a storehouse of 
energy ; and the sun is admitted to have stored all sorts 
of energy in almost infinite volume, for no other known, 
intelligent use than the purposes of man. Further, 
steel stores elastic energy better than any vegetable 
life can do it ; every molecule stores cohesive energy 
better than any animal life does it ; while all intelligent 
people are still staring, with stupid bewilderment, at the 
storage power of an atom of radium. Matter indeed, is 
energy itself, and its economies first made organic life 
possible by thus correcting nature s tendency to waste. 
Kvon less can the physicist admit that man alone 
enjoys the supernatural power of consciously reversing 
nature s processes, and of restoring her dissipated energies 


to their lost intensity. From the physicist s point of view, 
Man, as a conscious and constant, single, natural force, 
seems to have no function except that of dissipating or 
degrading energy. Indeed, the evolutionist himself has 
complained, and is still complaining in accents which grow 
shriller every day, that man does more to dissipate and 
waste nature s economies than all the rest of animal or 
vegetable life has ever done to save them. " Already," 
one may hear the physicists aver "man dissipates 
every year all the heat stored in a thousand million tons of 
coal which nature herself cannot now replace, and he 
does this only in order to convert some ten or fifteen per 
cent of it into mechanical energy immediately wasted 
on his transient and commonly purposeless objects. 
He draws great reservoirs of coal-oil and gas out of the 
earth, which he consumes like the coal. He is digging 
out even the peat-bogs in order to consume them as heat. 
He has largely deforested the planet, and hastened its 
desiccation. He seizes all the zinc and whatever other 
minerals he can burn, or which he can convert into other 
forms of energy, and dissipate into space. His con 
sumption of oxygen would be proportionate to his waste of 
heat, and, according to Kelvin, If we burn up our fuel 
supplies so fast, the oxygen of the air may become ex 
hausted, and that exhaustion might come about in four 


or five centuries (Life, 1002). He startles and shocks 
even himself, in his rational moments, by his extrava 
gance, as in his armies and armaments which are made 
avowedly for no other purpose than to dissipate or degrade 
energy, or annihilate it as in the destruction of life, on a scale 
that rivals operations of nature. What is still more curious, 
his chief pleasures, so far as they are his own invention, 
consist in gratifying the same unintelligent passion for 
dissipating or degrading energy, as in drinking alcohol, 
or burning fireworks, or firing cannon, or illuminating 
cities, or deafening them by senseless noises. Worse 
than all, such is his instinct of destruction that he system 
atically exterminates or degrades all the larger forms of 
animal life in which nature stored her last creative efforts, 
while he breeds artificially, at great expense of his own 
energies, and at cost of the phosphorus and lime accumu 
lated by nature s mostly extinct organisms, the feebler 
forms of animal and vegetable energies needed to make 
good the prodigious waste of his own. Physicists and 
physiologists equally complain of these tendencies in 
man, and a large part of their effort is now devoted to 
correcting them ; but the physicist adds that, compared 
with this enormous mass of nature s economies which man 
dissipates every year in rapid progression, the little he 
captures from the sun, directly or indirectly, as heat-rays, 


or water-power, or wind-power, is trifling, and the portion 
that he restores to higher intensities would be insignificant 
in any case, even if he did not instantly degrade and dissi 
pate it again for some momentary use." 

Against this indictment of man s wastefulness, not even 
Darwin, fond of paradox as he was, would have cared to 
champion man s defence, and since Darwin wrote, the 
waste of energy has been doubled again and again. On 
this point, the evolutionist stands at great disadvantage. 
Astronomers are given to holding the sun to a sort of 
moral accountability because it utilizes only about 
of its heat, or gravitation, or electricity, 

2,30 0,0 0,0 

or whatever energies it dissipates, on any known work, 
and degrades the rest indefinitely in space ; but, if their 
relative resources are taken into account, the sun is, - 
according to the physicists, a model economist com 
pared with man. The sun can keep up its expenditure 
indefinitely, subject to occasional fits of economy; while 
man is a bottomless sink of waste unparalleled in the 
cosmos, and can already see the end of the immense 
economies which his mother Nature stored for his support. 
Almost all other organisms, especially the lowest, were 
good economists, and inorganic matter seemed to be 
perfect. No physicist dares guess within millions of 
years the date when the carboniferous forests stored their 


carbon ; but it was an affair of to-day compared with the 
date when steel stored its elasticity, or the magnet its 
attraction, or uranium its radiation, or the earth its 
gravitation ; yet the chemists seem unconscious that 
any of the forms of matter actually known to them, 
unless it be the radiating activities, have lost or are now 
degrading their energies, while the higher animals have 
passed, and are still passing, like dreams. 

The evolutionist knows all this quite as well as the 
degradationist, and has never held man s extravagance 
for a virtue except in a sense of his own, as though he 
were to adopt the physicist s figure, and say that the 
enormous fall of potential which he obtained from all 
this combustion was utilized or converted by him, and 
reappeared in the intenser form of energy called Thought. 
Considered as a mode of motion, Thought was far more 
valuable than Heat or Electricity, and more much easily 
stored ; it was subject to the usual mechanical laws of 
attraction and inertia; its analogy with Electricity was 
declared to be close; and its usefulness was the more 
important because it had been so carefully economized 
that its full reservoir could be drawn upon, as in 
Universities and schools and libraries, by all the world 
without limit, like the oxygen of the air. 

In literary language, Thought was God;-- Energy in 


abstract and absolute form ; the ultimate Substance ; 
das Ding an sich. Most philosophy rested on this 
idea that Thought is the highest or subtlest energy of 
nature. The sun is an immense energy, but does its 
work on earth only by expending 2,300,000,000 times 
more than equivalent energy in space, while Thought does 
more work without expending any equivalent energy at 
all. By placing a lens in the path of the sun s rays, it 
restores to any given intensity the radiation which had 
been indefinitely diffused. By cheap mechanical instru 
ments it raises or lowers the intensity of the electric 
current. By slight motions of the hand it sets chemical 
energies at work without limit ; and, what stamps the 
act as divine, it impresses the result with FORM. 

Thus the dispute drifts back again to the middle-ages. 
The physicist can no more compromise with the evolu 
tionist than Lord Bacon could compromise with the 
Schools. Galileo could as well admit that Joshua had 
held up the sun, as Kelvin could admit the power of man 
to reverse the dissipation of solar energy, and thus to 
produce a new energy of higher potential, called Thought ; 
yet even if, for the argument s sake, he had done so, the 
dispute would not have been settled. If Thought were 
actually a result of transforming other energies into one 
of a higher potential, it must still be equally subject to 


the laws which governed those energies, and could not 
be an independent or supernatural force. Turn or twist 
the dilemma as they pleased, they returned to it in spite 
of themselves, and would do no better if the evolutionist 
were to give way, in his turn, and offer the concession he 
had refused. 

"On reflection," he might say, "I will grant that 
thought may radiate its energy away, like electricity and 
heat ; a figure which, I understand you to say, suits your 
law of degradation while leaving me free to prove, if I 
can, its power to rise in intensity. Where will this con 
cession bring me out ? You admit that the sun maintains 
its energy indefinitely by contracting its volume. Are 
you willing to admit that Vital Energy, regarded as a 
volume or society, might conceivably do the same thing? 
and if so, what then?" 

To this, the physicist must be supposed to reply, - 
however unwillingly, that nothing would suit him 
better than such a concession, which he had in fact 
begun by offering, but that, in common honesty, he was 
bound to regard it as a total surrender of the evolutionist 
claims. The mind either was an independent energy, 
or it was not. If evolutionists conceded at the outset 
that it was not, then the mere figure mattered nothing; 
the dispute ended of itself, and the law of thermodynamics 


went into operation. If, on the contrary, the evolutionists 
meant to insist on independence, they would gain little 
or nothing by proving a power to prolong life, animal, 
vegetable, or physical, by aggregation or by con 
centration ; they merely changed the numerical value of 
the variable called Time : - 

"No doubt," might a physicist be imagined to continue, 
"you can, if you like, give to this variable called Time a 
value approaching infinity, and this is your ordinary 
loop-hole of escape. You are welcome to it, as far as 
concerns us physicists, and we will help you to get it, and 
stay in it, if you will only leave us in peace without 
annoying us by your unscientific, ignorant objections 
which would put a stop to science altogether, if you insist 
on them. Yet when we look at it from your point of view, 
we cannot see what you gain by increasing the element of 
Time. You want to increase not Time but Tension. 
You do not want to preserve society as it is, and if you 
did want it, you could not do it ; you want to raise the 
level of its Vital Energy. Now, we admit that Vital 
Energy is not mere attraction or cohesion or elasticity, 
but we say that it is limited by the same laws, and we 
know little about any of them except their limitations. 
Of course, the mind can reverse them in action, but so 
can they reverse each other, and the mind too ; as 


cohesion reverses gravitation ; and a drop of water re 
verses cohesion ; and one degree of heat reverses all. A 
watch-spring stores elasticity better than the mind 
stores thought. Any chance bit of obsidian or crystal 
can set forests afire, without calling itself intelligent. A 
fall of one degree in temperature gives form to an icicle, 
without claiming to be divine. A summer shower develops 
electricity at a tension sufficient to reverse the energy 
of as many minds as get in its way, without asserting the 
smallest pretension to reverse natural laws. Nature is 
full of rival energies ; and, for anything we know, - 
may once have been full of hostile energies ; but, hostile 
or friendly, its infinite variety of Forms, Directions, 
Intensities, and Complexities, had taken order, from the 
smallest electron and ion to the widest range of stellar 
space measured by the most powerful light-ray, going 
through every possible form of physical evolution before 
man, or his instinct, or his reason, or any other 
animal, or vegetable, or organic life, or vital energy, ever 

If then the evolutionist, irritated by treatment which 
seems a far-off echo of the remarks of the King of Brob- 
dingnag to Gulliver nearly two hundred years ago, should 
still insist upon his mind being the highest possible 
intensity of energy on account of its consciousness, the 


degradationist might probably lose his temper and his 
manners outright, to the point of breaking out : - 

"The psychologists have already told you that Con 
sciousness is only a phase in the decline of vital energy ; - 
a stage of weakening will. We physicists, even less than 
you Darwinists, deny the intensity of the Will, but we 
know it to be stronger in the Scarab or the Scorpion, 
where it is unconscious, than in Monkey or Man, where 
it is conscious ; while we watch, over and over again, 
with abject incredulity, the apotheosis of a butterfly or 
the flowering of an orchid, which reveal to our scientific 
sense an intensity of vital energy out of all comparison 
with that of man. We never tire of marvelling at the 
essence of substance ; at the energy of the atom or the 
glow-worm; but this is the motive behind our whole 
thermodynamic law. 

"The highest intensities of nature, such as produced 
the atom and the molecule, were precisely the earliest 
on our scale. Of the vital energies in the order of time 
we cannot pretend to know much, since all the types 
seem to have first developed themselves, during a great 
many millions of years, in water, or underground, in 
conditions indefinitely varied and altogether unknown ; 
but the moment an animal appears above-ground, it 
turns out to be a Silurian Scorpion, a type of the intensest 


V. ** ^* *.C ; /VA... /i-M vyj- f *>*> Xe llj 

vital energy that ever lived, if one Can trust the entomol 
ogists. Next, in the Carboniferous, we happen first on 
a dragon-fly with a spread of wing much exceeding two 
feet (Dana, 702). Carboniferous insects, like carbonif 
erous forests, suggest intensities indefinitely stronger in 
creative power than any energies known to be at work 
to-day. In fact, no creative energies whatever are known 
to be at work today, unless it be the radiating activities. 
Merc heat creates nothing. Neither heat nor its absence 
accounts for any of the problems of vital energy, - 
neither for the cell, nor the form, nor the movement, nor 
the consciousness, nor the descent, nor the inheritance, 
nor the intelligence, of organisms ; nor does motion 
account for direction. No intelligent man now-a-days is 
satisfied with a purely mechanical formula. 

"Palaeontologists talk only of specialization, as though 
the more elaborate type were the higher intensity. The 
opposite is more likely to be true. Geology suggests 
plainly that, after at least fifty million years of conditions 
which made life impossible except under water, these 
anarchic forces dissipated themselves so far as to settle 
into an equilibrium which showed itself on land in the 
wild exuberance of the carboniferous forests, and which 
then developed into the wilder exuberance of the Eocene 
mammals. How long this exuberance lasted, Saporta 


has told us ; and he is also authority for the fact, not 
the theory, I say, that the equilibrium was over 
thrown by the steady dissipation of energy. Gaudry, 
another sufficient authority, has added that vital energy 
fell step by step, and phase by phase, with solar energy. 
The geologists in general seem to agree with the astron 
omers in teaching that both forms of energy will continue 
to fall in intensity until both disappear. Meanwhile we 
are perfectly at liberty to teach that the relative intensity 
of each phase measured the relative intensity of each 
creation of land-organisms in the order of time. We are 
not only at liberty to do it ; we are logically compelled to 
insist upon it. No other order of sequence can be made 
to accord with the positively miraculous properties which 
defy explanation in organic as in inorganic nature. 

"We all remember the desperate efforts that Darwin 
made to fit within a uniformitarian schedule these violent 
leaps in the energy of evolution, but we seldom realize 
how difficult he found the task of convincing himself 
that his own scheme was convenient. When he said, as 
he often did, that he never thought of the eye without a 
chill, the eye, to this day (I860), gives me a cold 
shudder/ - - he meant, among other things, that 
his theory was good for nothing as a convenient means of 
explaining why the eye should have leaped to perfection 


from its start, when it should have been the slowest in the 
order of evolution. In fact, the eye of the first fish, at 
the beginning of geological time, was at least as good as 
that of his descendant still living unchanged ; and the 
first trilobites, somewhere in Silurian ages, had eyes 
of twelve or fifteen thousand facets. Assuredly/ says 
Gaudry, we marvel at such complication in creatures of 
such great antiquity, but we cannot conclude that the 
organ of sight reached its whole perfection in the primary 
period, for probably the thirty thousand facets of Remo- 
pleurides were not equal in value to the two beautiful 
eyes of our actual mammals. Such a probably might 
well cause Darwin a chill ; but had he gone on to say that 
the decline of the Tertiary quadrupeds caused him a worse 
shudder, he would have said only what Dana seemed to 
feel, and what strikes every physicist with astonishment 
when he reads it in Dana, about the universal stunting of 
animal life in recent times. In South America alone, 
during and since the glacial epoch, the extinct species of 
quadrupeds number moro than a hundred, while, among 
the peculiarly South American order of Ant-eaters, the 
extinct species were more numerous than all those that 
now exist in that part of the continent, and were far 
larger animals. In Australia the Marsupials prove the 
same law: As on the other continents, the moderns are 


dwarfs by the side of the ancient species. As a universal 
rule, the fact of dwindling size holds true of a large part 
of the mammals, including elephants and herbivores as 
well as many carnivores, edentates, rodents and marsu 
pials : The kinds that continued into modern time became 
dwindled in the change wherever found over the globe, 
notwithstanding the fact that genial climates are still to 
be found over large regions (Dana, 997). Neither 
Kelvin nor Faye, neither Lapparent nor Flammarion, 
. .asserted the brutal facts of degradation nearly so strongly 
as Dana. 

"To this law, which has already reduced us to living 
in an impoverished world, you evolutionists require us 
physicists, under some mysterious penalty, to make for 
you an exception in favor of man. We cannot do it. 
We are willing to yield much of the old mechanical 
ground. We grant that we cannot explain why, in man 
or in molecule, the primitive energies of nature took 
directions which imply, in our limited experience, a 
reasoning forethought. Cause is a transcendental prob 
lem beyond our grasp. We no longer venture even to 
assert that we know the creative forces at all. We say 
only that in the world which we do know, we can see 
nothing supernatural in action. Infinite complication 
we admit, but no ultimate contradiction. Sooner or 


later, every apparent exception, whether man or radium, 
tends to fall within the domain of physics. Against 
this necessity, human beings have always rebelled. For 
thousands of years they have stood apart, superior to 
physical laws. The time has come when they must 

"The claim that Reason must be classed as an energy 
of the highest intensity is itself unreasonable. On the 
contrary, Reason is the last in time, and therefore the 
lowest in tension. According to our western standards, 
the most intense phase of human Energy occurred in the 
form of religious and artistic emotion, perhaps in the 
Crusades and Gothic Churches ; but since then, though 
vastly increased in apparent mass, human energy has 
lost intensity and continues to lose it with accelerated 
rapidity, as the Church proves. Organized in society, as 
a volume, it becomes a multiplied number of enfeebled 
units, on which, like the eye in insects, reason acts as 
an enormously multiplied lens, converging nature s lines 
of will, and taking direction from them, but adding noth 
ing of its own. Man has, indeed, or had, in a few 
of his stems, some faculty for artistic expression, not 
nearly so strong as that of some plants, or some butter 
flies, or some birds, but more varied. This instinct he 
probably inherited from an earlier, more gifted, animal ; 


but as a creative energy he inherited next to nothing. 
The coral polyp is a giant beside him. As an energy he 
has but one dominant function : that of accelerating 
the operation of the second law of thermodynamics. So 
far as his reason acts as an energy at all, it is a miraculous 
invention for this purpose, which inspires wonder and 
almost worship, but in strictness and reason does not 
work, it is only a mechanism ; nature s energy, 
which we have agreed to call Will, that lies behind reason, 
does the work, and degrades the energy in doing it !" 
Evidently, on these lines, no sort of agreement is 
possible. The two figures contradict each other beyond 
the chance of conciliation. Of course the contradiction 
has been slightly exaggerated to make it clear ; but if the 
physicist had not himself lost the high literary potential of 
Swift and Voltaire, he would exaggerate to much better 
purpose, and would handle the unfortunate creature 
called Man in a temper such as any one may renew who 
cares to go back to Bunyan or Dante or the Bible, not to 
mention the Prophets in particular; but he would con 
vince no one. Man refuses to be degraded in self-esteem, 
of which he has never had enough to save him from bitter 
self-reproaches. He yearns for flattery, and he needs it. 
The contradiction between science and instinct is so radi 
cal that, though science should prove twenty times over, 


by every method of demonstration known to it, that man 
is a thermodynamic mechanism, instinct would reject the 
proof, and whenever it should be convinced, it would have 
to die. 

If the deadlock were a new thing, the situation would 
not be so difficult, but the history of the last five hundred 
years tells of little else. Man began by usurping the rank 
of lord of creation. Galileo and Newton succeeded in 
deposing him, much against his will, as the Church 
very candidly confessed, but he has never despaired of 
reinstating himself by means of his Reason. The doctrine 
of evolution seemed, in the nineteenth century, to favor 
him. For fifty years, society flattered itself that science 
stood solidly behind it, lifting it up from lower powers to 
higher, and restoring it to its old rank and self-respect 
as child and heir to the infinite. The contrary assertion 
of Kelvin had no effect upon it whatever. Indeed if 
Eduard von Ilartmann is right, society deliberately chose 
to be silent about the direction of physics, and refused to 
think or talk about it ; but silence has never stopped this 
dispute, at least in western civilization, since the martyr 
dom of Prometheus, and merely hurried the moment when, 
on scientific principles, another catastrophe, like that of the 
Newtonian philosophy, became imminent. 

William Thomson and Chiusius, Helmholz and Balfour 


Stewart, asserted and reiterated the certainty of this 
catastrophe, in vain, as Descartes had asserted it, also 
in vain, two hundred years before ; but Descartes 
offered a compromise, and in that respect differed from 
Kelvin. Descartes proposed to free man from material 
bondage, provided he might mechanize all other vital 
energies. Society rose in arms to protect the dog, and 
so defeated the scheme, leaving the world to go on assert 
ing two contradictory principles in the same breath, down 
to the present day, to the undiminished embarrassment 
of Universities, and with little perceptible change in the 
situation, except that the Universities of to-day hesitate 
to assert with confidence the old conviction of spiritual 
authority, showing in this respect a distinct decline in 
energy ; while technical instruction has reached, or 
seems on the verge of reaching, the point where it 
must insist on the universal application of its thermo- 
dynamic law. 

Since compromise of principle seems to be out of the 
question, there remains only the resource of direct con 
flict. Each party is thrown back on the horns of a 
dilemma, the same old dilemma of Saint Augustine 
and Descartes, the deadlock of free-will. The pro 
fessor of physics will ask his colleague, the professor of 
history, to explain the process by which energy raises its 


own potential without cost, since this has been an object 
greatly desired by schoolmasters from the earliest known 
ages, and would singularly simplify the professorial 
accounts. The teacher of history, who has trouble 
enough already in trying to raise the potential of his 
scholars energy, can only retort by asking his colleague 
to show how his own teaching proves progressive enfeeble- 
ment and degradation of quality. The degradationist 
might be quite ready to admit it, and quite competent to 
prove it, but he knows that he has already turned his own 
thermodynamic law into a means of convincing society of 
the contrary. Since the year 1830, when the great 
development of physical energies began, all school- 
teaching has learned to take for granted that man s 
progress in mental energy is measured by his capture of 
physical forces, amounting to some fifty million steam 
horse-power from coal, and at least as much more from 
chemical and elementary sources ; besides indefinite 
potentials in his stored experience, and progressive rise 
in the intensities of the forces he keeps in constant use. 
He cares little what becomes of all this new power ; he is 
satisfied to know that he habitually develops heat at 
3000 Centigrade and electricity by the hundred thousand 
volts, from sources of indefinitely degraded energy; 
and that his mind has learned to control them. Man s 


Reason once credited with this addition of volume and 
intensity, its victory seems assured. The teacher of 
history need then trouble himself with no further doubts 
of Evolution ; but the teacher of physics seems at 
least to an ignorant world whose destiny hangs on the 
balance, very much required to defend himself. 

Although this form of physical psychology is less than 
a hundred years old it has already taken possession of 
society so completely as to serve it, in place of the old 
religious and mechanical formulas, for a philosophical 
foundation. The historian has a right to use it as such ; 
but according to the understanding of the physical law 
already discussed, one would think physicists debarred 
from admitting it. To them it should seem an illusion, 
although one difficult to deal with ; but, as far as a by 
stander has means of judging, they would still be at liberty 
to turn the dilemma about, and seek to impale their 
antagonist on the reversed horn, by suggesting that the 
theory of tropism or induction, or of physico-chemical 
relations in general, seems to require that the psychical 
will, under such conditions, should not absorb physical 
energy so much as physical energy would absorb the 
psychical will. Two similar energies, when in contact, 
would tend to a common level ; force, if powerful enough, 
would control thought; the ocean would dissolve the 


crystal of salt; so that, if the evolutionist should 
insist on identifying; the quality of his psychical energy 
with the quantity of his steam- or water-power or electric 
voltage, the physicist would expect to see the psychical 
potential of society vanish as suddenly as the potential 
of a Ley den jar. 

Perhaps the Universities might be quicker than the 
technical schools to see the point of this retort, since they 
claim, in theory, to deal with quality rather than with 
quantity, and possibly some professors have noticed 
that quality may sometimes suffer from contact with 
volume. The idea is not precisely new, far from it ! 
even beyond the pale of European Universities, portions 
of society have shown a somewhat enfeebled instinct .of 
revolt against the psychical processes of the press and the 
public. Various writers have discussed the effect of 
dissolving society into a single mixture ; even a name, - 
panmixia has been made for it. Nothing is commoner 
than the prejudice against mechanical energy as a 
weakener of nervous energy whenever it gets control, as 
in manufacturing towns ; or the belief that great masses 
of people under uniform conditions tend to a mechanical 
uniformity of mind, as in agricultural districts ; but the 
interest of the subject lies less in the application of the 
theory than in the shape which the theory would have 


to take in order to conform with the rest of the law 
of thermodynamics. Physicists know best what their 
mathematical formulas for electricity and gases and 
solutions are ; historians have no right to meddle with 
the methods of colleagues in rival departments ; but 
they cannot help feeling curiosity to know whether Ost- 
wald s line of reasoning would logically end in subjecting 
both psychical and physico-chemical energies to the nat 
ural and obvious analogy of heat, and extending the law 
of Entropy over all. (Ostwald, "Vorlesungen," Leipzig, 
1902, p. 398.) 

Few physicists would be likely to see any scientific 
sense in this personal application of their law, and no one 
is readier than the historian to admit that vital Energy is 
probably not so simple as any formula that he could state, 
or understand if stated to him. The most ardent lover 
of paradox, the most inveterate humorist, would 
hardly think it worth his while to follow a train of reason 
ing which would surely immolate physics and metaphysics 
together. Such amusements seem to be reserved for 
astronomers ; but neither historians nor sociologists can 
afford to let themselves be driven into admitting that 
every gain of power, from gunpowder to steam, from 
the dynamo to the Daimler motor, has been made at 
the cost of man s and of woman s vitality. The 


mischiefs thus charged upon Reason would not end there. 
Metaphysics as well as mathematics would measure 
enfeeblement ; philosophy as well as mechanics would 
mark degradation ; the Universities as well as the tech 
nical schools would alike close their doors without waiting 
for the sun to grow cold. ^J 

Direct conflict, therefore, seems to be as barren as 
compromise. Heretofore in human experience, such 
reasoning would have been dismissed at once as only the 
usual futile attempt at reduction to the absurd. That 
it would pass for such in a University of to-day is an open 
question ; it sounds rather like another way of saying 
what Arndt, Branco, and Hopf, as well as Rousseau and 
a thousand others have said for the past hundred and 
fifty years ; but in any case it has no value for teachers, 
since it leads only to the stoppage of teaching altogether. 
If the teacher of history cares to contest the ground with 
the teacher of physics, he must become a physicist him 
self, and learn to use laboratory methods. He needs 
technical tools quite as much as the electrician does ; 
large formulas, like Willard Gibbs Rule of Phases; 
generalizations, no matter how temporary or hypo 
thetical, such as all mathematicians use for the con 
venience of their scholars. The whole field of physics 
is covered with such temporary structures, mere ap- 


proximatlons to truth, but in constant demand as tools. 
Mathematicians practise absolute freedom ; they have 
the right and use it to assume that a straight line 
is, or is not, the shortest distance between two points, 
as they please. In the whole domain of science, no field 
of cultivation is poorer in such labor-saving devices than 
that of human history, yet Man, as a form of energy, is 
in most need of getting a firm footing on the law of 
thermodynamics. One cannot doubt that Lord Kelvin 
could have suggested half-a-dozen figures which would 
answer the purpose, although he might very well have 
refused to waste his own stock of vital energy in the effort 
to prove his thermodynamic ascent from a hypothetical 
eocene lemur, or even from a duck-billed platypus ; neither 
of which would have promised energetic means of saving 
him from the pitfalls which his keen mathematical in 
stinct would have shown him as the work of his fellow- 
physicists, planted directly in his path. 

Whatever the difficulties, Kelvin would have faced 
them honestly. He had courage beyond the common, 
and if the problem had been forced on him as he forced 
it on others, he would not even have felt himself obliged 
to obey his ow r n laws. Almost in his last words he pa 
thetically proclaimed that his life was a failure in its long 
effort to reduce his physical energies to a single term. 


Dying he left the unity, duality, or multiplicity of energies 
as much disputed as ever. "A certain anarchy reigns 
in the sciences of nature s domain," says M. Lucien 
Poincare", who is regarded as a sufficient authority ; 
"any venture may be risked; no law appears rigorously 
necessary." Within the past year Professor Joly of 
Dublin has seriously risked such a venture in his "Radio 
activity and Geology ; an account of the Influence of 
Radio-active Energy on Terrestrial History" (London, 
1909) ; and although the general reader gathers from it 
mainly the conclusion that physical science is more or 
less chaotic, this conclusion is only what he needs to reach 
before he can begin to deal with vital science, which is all 
chaos. "We see the middle- and the end-series of the 
phylogenetic series," says Rcinkc ; "that we do not see 
the beginning is self-evident, since it w r as built up in a 
period of the earth s history which is for us tran 
scendental" ("Einleitung," p. 012); we could not 
understand it if we did see it. So far as concerns the 
history of man, every period of the earth s history, 
beyond its actual condition, is transcendental. The 
anthropologist knows nothing whatever about it. Among 
a thousand possible varieties of primitive man, he has 
scarcely more than two or three doubtful clues to follow, 
and thus far these lead nowhere. 


The single point about which Professor Klaatsch 
speaks with positiveness approaching temper, is that 
"the primitive man must not be treated either as morally 
bad or as intellectually stupid. . . . The primitive man, 
our ancestor, is to be prized as a being high in rank, who, 
in many a point of view, in force of individuality and 
vigor of self-assertion (Kraft der Individuality und 
Kampfesmut) was the superior of his cultured heirs 
(seinen Epigonen der Kultur)." (Kobner Versammlung 
der Deutschen Naturforscher und Arzte. Herbst, 1908.) 
Apparently this is the only certain result of sixty years 
effort in physics and physiology. Forced back on the 
logical suicide of asserting or accepting an act of creation, 
biologists prefer to admit mental enfeeblement, even at 
the risk of being driven to admit both ; so that, if the 
safety of society should seem now to depend on assum 
ing a multiple cause, as of old on establishing the unity 
of creation, nothing obliges society to persist in its monist 
scheme. If the physicist cannot make mind the master, 
as the metaphysician would like, he can at least abstain 
from making it the slave. 

So little essential is monism, that M. H. Poincar 
lately startled the world by avowing that physicists used 
that formula only because all science would become im 
possible if they were not allowed to assume simple hy- 


potheses ("La Science et 1 Hypothese," p. 173); but 
this mental need of unity is also a weakness, which gives 
the degradationist an artificial and altogether unfair 
advantage. The convenience of unity is beyond ques 
tion, and convenience overrides morals as well as money, 
when a vast majority of minds, educated or not, are 
invited to live in a complex of anarchical energies, with 
only the privilege of acting as chief anarchists. Be 
wildered and outraged they reject the image ; but they 
find that of diffusion or degradation so simple and so 
natural as to satisfy every want. The Darwinian readily 
admits that Kelvin s sun accounts for evolution better 
than Darwin s did ; and he is only too ready to drop all 
the school-phrases, to call the process Transformation, 
and so, quietly, surrender the issue. He is equally ready 
to admit that Darwin never supplied a motive power 
that should vary in force with the phenomena ; he might 
even go so far as to concede that the want of such an 
energy had embarrassed biology nearly to the point of 
paralysis ; while he must honestly grant that Kelvin 
began mathematically by giving himself, from the start, 
all the power he needed, in the degree in which he needed 
it, so that his system supplied its own force, like the 
Niagara River, by degrading its ow r n energies. Sim 
plicity may not be evidence of truth, and unity is perhaps 


the most deceptive of all the innumerable illusions of 
mind ; but both are primary instincts in man, and have 
an attraction on the mind akin to that of gravitation 
on matter. The idea of unity survives the idea of God 
or of Universe ; it is innate and intuitive. Thought 
floats much more easily towards than against it, and 
from the moment when heat, or electricity, or thought, 
or any other form or -symbol or medium of energy, was 
likened to a falling substance tending to an ultimate 
ocean of Entropy, nothing was simpler than to plot out 
the ordinates and abscissas that marked its curve of 
evolution. Astronomy, geology, palaeontology, biology, 
psychology, could all move majestically down the decline. 
Perhaps the feature of the scheme that was most re 
pulsive to instinct, was most seductive to science, its 
fatal facility in accounting for Reason. All organisms 
would tend to develop nervous systems when dynamically 
ill-nourished. As the Drosera is represented to have 
taken to a diet of insects when it could no longer nourish 
itself sufficiently as a vegetable, or as a tree may throw 
out wider and deeper roots in the degree that complexity 
might bring moisture, so the vital energy which had 
developed in the exuberance of physical quantity so long 
as its dynamic supplies were in excess of its needs, would 
turn itself, as its conditions were impoverished, into those 


" connecting, or, as they are technically called, association- 
fibres, which make nerve-currents work together as they 
could not without being thus associated." Thought then 
appears in nature as an arrested, in other words, as 
a degraded, physical action. The theory is convenient, 
and convenience makes law, at least in the laboratory. 

In this freedom of handling his energies the physicist 
enjoys another easy advantage over the sociologist. As 
already pointed out, the physicist is safe from inter 
ference so long as he can still promise expansion of power, 
or relief from pain ; while the oldest and driest professor 
of history would smile at the idea of trying to imitate 
his vivacious colleague by telling his students, at the 
opening of the collegiate year, that, "as an approximately 
correct working hypothesis," he should proceed to treat 
the history of modern Europe and America as a typical 
example of energies indicating degradation "with head 
long rapidity" towards "inevitable death." Probably he 
would have no more difficulty than the physicist has, 
in making his material fit his figure ; history can be 
written in one sense just as easily as in another; but 
however perfect this figure might seem to him he would 
not think it suited to the interests of the students or of 
the University, in spite of the fact that the University 
has never committed itself to the contrary. Indeed he 


could truthfully say that the Universities in Europe have 
never preached upward evolution at all. 

History began with admitting as its starting-point 
that the speechless animal who raised himself to the use 
of an inflected language must have made an effort greater 
and longer than the effort required for him, after perfect 
ing his tongue, to vulgarize and degrade it. Even after 
descending to the familiar facts of relatively recent evolu 
tion historians never teach that Egyptian pyramids and 
tombs show childlike inferiority to the tombs and temples 
of Berlin. Artists have never been known to illustrate 
their lectures on the history of their art by showing how 
much the sculpture of Pheidias and Praxiteles might have 
been improved by an acquaintance with the sculpture of 
London. Dramatists do not hold up to derision the 
feebleness of Aeschylus or the folly of Aristophanes be 
fore the gigantic force and genius of Sardou and Rostand 
on the Paris stage. American professors do not read 
Pindar or Lucretius aloud in order to suit the intelligence 
of their children in the nurseries of New York and Chicago. 
Historians seldom express contempt for Thucydides, and 
still devote volumes to Alexander the Great and Julius 
Caesar. They have obstinately shirked the duty of ap 
plying the law of elevation to their view of history, but 
rather have bitterly opposed it. Even the prophet of 


progress in the English school, Macaulay, could 
not resist the old trick of reviving a conventional bar 
barian to gloat, "in the midst of a vast solitude," over 
the exhausted energies of England. Histories invariably 
use Kelvin s figure whenever it is convenient, and talk 
of new races in set terms as so much fresh fuel, or oxygen, 
flung on the burnt-out energies of empire ; while the 
greatest historical work in the English language is called 
"The Decline and Fall." 

Something less than two hundred and fifty years ago, 
all the greatest scholars and wits of Europe were disputing 
the relative superiority of ancients and moderns. Swift s 
"Battle of the Books" still lives as a sparkling record of it. 
The moderns, having the advantage of being alive, de 
cided the result in their own favor, but, until the amazing 
influx of mechanical and physical energies after 1830, 
the European Universities never seemed clear on the 
subject, and would be quite likely to-day to reverse the 
judgment on such evidence as decided the case in 1700. 
Only an unusually well-informed scholar could say with 
certainty what the German or French Universities think 
about the dogma of upward evolution in the year 1910, 
but their record is a bad one. 

On the dogma of Degradation their record is worse. 
If the human race is to depend on their suffrages, its state 


is a parlous one. For a thousand years, as long as re 
ligion held sway, teachers were not merely permitted - 
they were obliged to condemn the human race, with 
rare exceptions, due only to the pity of God, to eternal 
degradation following the near end of the world. After 
1500 the Church very slowly lost its control of education, 
but the attitude of the schools changed little in regard 
to human history. In the University as in the pulpit, 
the standard of excellence remained among the Greeks, 
or the Romans, or the Jews, when it was not carried back 
to the Garden of Eden. In the nineteenth century, 
every one knows how eagerly the public responded to 
Wagner s resuscitation of the Middle Ages. By most 
artists modern life is assumed as decadence. What is 
most striking of all, the Universities have begun again, - 
within fifty years, to announce through their astrono 
mers the approaching demise of the solar system ; through 
their geologists, the death of the earth and its occupants ; 
through their physicists, the years still left for suns to 
shine, and the ultimate destiny of the celestial universe 
to become atomic dust at 270 Centigrade; while their 
anthropologists point out the rapid exhaustion of the 
race, and their newspapers day by day proclaim its steady 
degradation. What makes the matter infinitely worse 
is the common, daily experience that, not only in Uni- 


vcrsitics but also at every street-corner of every European 
city, on every half-holiday, hundreds of thousands of 
men are taught to believe with delight, that society, down 
to the present day, is an unnatural abortion, sustained 
by perverted illusions, and destined to immediate suicide. 
To such a point has this habit of teaching gone, that 
society itself, at every national and municipal election, 
is seen physically trembling; perplexed and confused; 
feeling its way ; conscious of its dangers ; anxious to do 
right ; ashamed of the sores which, as it is solemnly 
assured, disfigure its surface, and of the hideous tumors 
which, as it is incessantly told, are ravaging its 
vitals ; half-willing to be sacrificed, like Iphigenia, but 
timidly shrinking from staking the life, described as so 
worthless, on the gambler s chance of winning something 
less wretched in an unknown beyond. 

Among all these voluble prophets, the historian alone 
may not discuss the problem for respect of youth, lest he 
should make still more serious an issue which was serious 
before schools began. 

If the silent, half-conscious, intuitive faith of society 
could be fixed, it might possibly be found always tending 
towards belief in a future equilibrium of some sort, that 
should end in becoming stable; an idea which belongs 
to mechanics, and was probably the first idea that nature 


taught to a stone, or to an apple ; to a lemur or an ape ; 
before teaching it to Newton. Unfortunately for society, 
the physicists again abruptly interfere, like Sancho 
Panza s doctor, by earnest protests that, if one physical 
law exists more absolute than another, it is the law that 
stable equilibrium is death. A society in stable equi 
librium is by definition one that has no history 
and wants no historians. Thomson and Clausius startled 
the world by announcing this principle in 1852 ; but the 
ants and bees had announced it some millions of years 
before, as a law of organisms, and it may have been es 
tablished still earlier, in more convincing form, by some 
of the caterpillars. According to the recent doctrine of 
Will or Intuition, this conclusion was the first logical and 
ultimate result reached in the evolution of organic life ; 
but the professor of history who shall accept the hymen- 
optera and lepidoptera as teachers in the place of Kelvin 
and Clausius, will probably find himself in the same 
dilemma as before. If he aims at carrying his audience 
with him, he will have to adopt the current view of a 
society rising to an infinitely high potential of energy, 
and there remaining in equilibrium, the only view which 
will insure him the sympathy of men, as well as - 
probably of caterpillars ; but if he wants to conciliate 
science, he will have to deride the idea of a stable equi- 


librium of high potential, and insist that no stable social 
equilibrium can be reached except by degrading social 
energies to a level where they can fall no further, and do 
no more useful work. Perhaps this formula, too, may 
please many students, whose potential of vital energy, - 
or, in simpler words, whose love of work, is less archaic 
than that of the ants and bees ; but as a matter of prac 
tical teaching, as a mere choice between technical 
formulas, the two methods result in the same dilemma 
for the old-fashioned evolutionist who clings to his ideals 
of indefinite progress. Between two equilibriums, each 
mechanical, and each insisting that history is at an end, 
lost forever in the ocean of statistics, the classical Uni 
versity teacher of history, with his intuitions of free-will 
and art, can exist only as a sporadic survival to illustrate 
for his colleagues the workings of their second law of 

To some extent, already, he finds himself actually in 
this awkward situation where his colleagues betray im 
patience at his continued existence. With singular 
unanimity, the polite, but embarrassed authorities agree 
that history is not a science, and show marked unwilling 
ness to permit that it shall ever, with their consent, be 
come one. Except on their own terms, they will have 
nothing to do with human evolution, and their terms 


commonly require that they should treat man as a 
creature habitually striving to attain imaginary ideals 
always contrary to law. His Will and that of Nature 
have been constantly at strife, and continue to be so, 
under the Baconian philosophy and the law of Energetik, 
as decidedly as under the scholastic philosophy and the 
Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. Even the friendly 
Vitalist treats his brother Vitalists with candor not to 
be mistaken for compliment, because, "in the history of 
humanity there is always only so much science as there 
is no History" ; while the most naif of all the historian s 
naivetes is his favorite notion that the " understanding " 
of a problematic humanity can be furthered by adding 
to it a more problematic phantom of Descent. (Driesch, 
" NaturbegrifTe und Natururtheile." Leipzig, 1904, 
p. 237.) In truth, one is driven to admit that "the 
theory of descent," as Von Zittel says, "has introduced 
new ideas into descriptive natural history, and has given 
it a higher purpose; but we must not forget that it is 
still only a theory, which requires to be proved." 

On this point, the professor of history who has any 
smattering of special training, knows all that he needs 
to know. He is as free as ever he was to go on compiling 
tables of dates, or editing, or reediting so-called "docu 
ments," or seeking to infuse into the memories of his 


students a sufficient acquaintance with the statute Quia 
Emptores. He has fully made up his mind either for 
or against the existence of any philosophy at all, as well 
as whether he is required to lecture on such a philosophy 
in case it does, or does not, exist. Every competent 
teacher of history is supposed, justly or unjustly, to know 
his Herbert Spencer and Auguste Comte, even if not his 
Lamprecht. When his physiological colleagues ridicule 
his aspirations to science, the professor of history seems 
little disposed to resent their attitude, but rather en 
courages it ; and he is right, if they are right, in doing 
so; but, none the less, he finds himself thus placed, for 
the first time in three hundred years, face to face with a 
painful, if not a vital problem. In one respect his dilemma 
is worse than in the sixteenth century, since Bacon s 
physical teaching aimed at freeing the mind from a 
servitude, while the law of Entropy imposes a servitude 
on all energies, including the mental. The degree of 
freedom steadily and rapidly diminishes. Without rest, 
the physicists gently push history down the decline, as 
yet scarcely conscious, which they are certain to plot 
out by abscissae and ordinates as soon as they can fix 
and agree upon a sufficient number of normal variables, 
not with conscious intention but by unconscious extension. 
Every reader of current literature knows that the subject 


is touched by half the books he reads, and that the most 
popular are the most outspoken. Few volumes are more 
widely known than M. Gustave Le Bon s "Physiologic 
des Foules " (1895), which closes with the following 
paragraph : - 

"That which formed a people, a unity, a block, ends 
by becoming an agglomeration of individuals without 
cohesion, still held together for a time by its traditions 
and institutions. This is the phase when men, divided 
by their interests and aspirations, but no longer knowing 
how to govern themselves, ask to be directed in their 
smallest acts ; and when the State exercises its absorbing 
influence. With the definitive loss of the old ideal, the 
race ends by entirely losing its soul ; it becomes nothing 
more than a dust of isolated individuals, and returns to 
what it was at the start, a crowd." 

Under the thinnest veil of analogy the physicist- 
historian, with scientific calmness, condemns our actual 
society as he condemns the sun; for the "crowd" which 
Gustave Le Bon declares to be the end of social evolution 
is not at all the same "crowd" that made its beginning, 
and is wholly incapable of doing useful work. In the 
very teeth of his own arguments and aims Gustave Le 
Bon in his last volume, "La Psychologic Politique" 
(Paris, 1910), affirms that this process has already reached 
its critical point : - 


"The surest symptom of the decadence threatening 
us is the general enfeeblement of characters. Numerous 
to-day are the men whose energy weakens, especially 
among the choicest, who should be precisely those who 
need it most, with the great masters who are placed at 
the head of nations, as well as with the small chiefs who 
govern in details, indecision and weakness become 
dominant. . . . Among the forces of which man dis 
poses, in order to struggle successfully against the powers 
which constrain him, the Will was always the most 
active. ... If we try then to discover why so many 
nations perished after a long decline, why Rome 
formerly queen of the world, ended by falling under the 
barbarian s yoke, we find that those profound falls had 
generally the same cause, enfeeblement of the Will" 
(pp. 374-5). "It was always by this enfeeblement of 
character, and not by that of intelligence that the great 
peoples disappeared from history" (p. 295). "It would 
even seem as though to-day the dead alone gave us energy " 
(p. 372). This is the teaching of a physicist, but the 
medical authorities on psychic disease are even more 
outspoken, frankly asserting as a fact, on which their 
teaching rests, that the weakness of the Will is the great 
malady of our epoch. (Grasset, "Id6es Medicales." 
Paris, 1910, p. 56.) Among these medical experts, Dr. 


Forbes Winslow in his " Recollections " has scandalized 
the community by his bluntness : "On comparing the 
human race during the past forty years," he says (pp. 376- 
377), "I have no hesitation in stating that it has de 
generated, and is still progressing in a downward direction. 
We are gradually approaching, with the decadence of 
youth, a near proximity to a nation of madmen. By 
comparing the lunacy statistics of 1809 with those of 
1909, ... an insane world is looked forward to by me 
with a certainty in the not far distant future." In fact, 
the statistics show that in 1809 there was one lunatic in 
every 418 of the total population of England and Wales ; 
in 1909, there was one in every 278 ; so that in three 
hundred years one half the population should be insane 
or idiotic. "These are facts!" continues Dr. Forbes 
Winslow; "they cannot in any way be challenged." 

Gustave Le Bon is himself a physicist of wide renown, 
but he is remarkable also as director of the " Bibliotheque 
de Philosophie Scientifique," the best known of all recent 
attempts to lighten the load of technical instruction and 
of scientific baggage. Among the most recent of these 
admirable volumes is one on "Degradation" (Paris, 
November, 1908), by M. Bernhard Brunhes, whose 
position as Director of the Observatory of the Puy de 
Dome guarantees his competence to narrate the story. 


In one or two paragraphs, with the lucidity which so 
often distinguishes French thought from that of some 
other races, M. Brunhes summarizes the values of the 
two philosophies of history : - 

The preceding remarks give the key to the apparent 
opposition which exists between the doctrine of Evolu 
tion and the principle of Degradation of energy. Physical 
science presents to us a world which is unceasingly wear 
ing itself out. A philosophy which claims to derive sup 
port from biology, paints complacently, on the contrary, 
a world steadily improving, in which physiological life 
goes on always growing perfect to the point of reaching 
full consciousness of itself in man, and where no limit 
seems imposed on eternal progress. Observe that this 
second idea, of indefinite progress, has furnished 
much more material than the first, for literary develop 
ment ! This is no doubt because the scientific facts on 
which it is constructed lend themselves to vulgarization 
far more easily than the scientific facts whose combination 
forms the principle of Carnot. From our point of view 
the principle of Degradation of energy would prove noth 
ing against the fact of Evolution. The progressive trans 
formation of species, the realization of more perfect 
organisms, contain nothing contrary to the idea of the 
constant loss of useful energy. Only the vast and gran- 


diose conceptions of imaginative philosophers who erect 
into an absolute principle the law of universal progress/ 
could no longer hold against one of the most fundamental 
ideas that physics reveals to us. On one side, therefore, 
the world wears out ; on another side the appearance on 
earth of living beings more and more elevated, and, - 
in a slightly different order of ideas, the development 
of civilization in human society, undoubtedly give the 
impression of a progress and a gain" (p. 193). 

This, then, is the extreme limit of the physicists con 
cessions. If a compromise is to be made, it must rest 
there. The degradationist can so far ameliorate the 
immediate rigor of his law as to admit that degradation 
of energy may create, or convey, an impression of progress 
and gain ; but if the evolutionist presses the inquiry 
further, and asks where this proposed compromise will 
lead him as a teacher of young men, what future reality 
lies behind the impression of progress, what amount 
of illusion is to be reckoned as an independent variable 
in the formula of gain, the degradationist replies, quite 
candidly and honestly, that this impression of gain is 
derived from an impression of Order due to the levelling 
of energies ; but that the impression of Order is an illu 
sion consequent on the dissolution of the higher Order 
which had supplied, by lowering its inequalities, all the 


useful energies that caused progress. The reality be 
hind the illusion, is, therefore, absence of the power to 
do useful work, or what man knows in his finite 
sensibilities as death : - 

"Thus Order in the material universe would be the 
mark of utility and the measure of value ; and this Order, 
far from being spontaneous, would tend constantly to 
destroy itself. Yet the Disorder towards which a col 
lection of molecules moves, is in no respect the initial 
chaos rich in differences and inequalities that generate use 
ful energies ; on the contrary it is the average mean of 
equality and homogeneity in absolute want of coordina 
tion" (p. 53). 

Perhaps an instructor needs a memory extending over 
sixty years in order to measure the revolution in thought 
which such teaching implies. Every right-minded Uni 
versity Professor of 1850 dismissed the ideas of Kelvin 
as he did those of Malthus, Karl Marx, and Schopenhauer, 
as fantastic. They shocked him partly for their extrava 
gance but chiefly for what he regarded as their destructive 
pessimism. In 1910 an American professor who should 
try to get below the surface of thought in Germany, 
Italy, France, or even in England, would probably in 
cline to the conclusion that Schopenhauer may be re 
garded as an optimist. In reality pessimists and op- 


timists have united on a system of science which makes 
pessimism the logical foundation of optimism. History 
is the victim of both. Let any young student take up 
the last German book on Biology that happens to fall 
under his eyes. Within the first hundred pages he is 
fairly sure to come upon some assertion or assumption 
of the second law of thermodynamics in its dogmatic 
form : 

"The Energetik of the living organism consists, then, 
in the last analysis, in the fact that the organism, when 
left to itself, tends in the direction of a stable equilibrium 
under the surrender of energy to the outer world. The 
reaching of the stable equilibrium, even the mere ap 
proach to it, means death. In this respect the or 
ganism acts like a clock that has run down." (Reinke, 
"Einleitung in die theoretische Biologie," p. 152.) 

In 1852, Thomson contented himself by saying that a 
restoration of energy is " probably" never effected by 
organized matter. In 1910, there is nothing " probable" 
about it ; the fact has become an axiom of biology. In 
1852, any University professor would have answered this 
quotation by the dry remark that society was not an 
organism, and that history was not a science, since it 
could not be treated mathematically. To-day, M. Bern- 
hard Brunhes seems to feel no doubt that society is an 


organism, and the most marked tendency of recent his 
torians is to reassert in almost dogmatic terms the his 
torical fact that man is the creature, not the creator, of 
the social organism. Among living historians Eduard 
Meyer stands near the head, and his introduction begins 
with the axiom that "the whole mental development of 
mankind has, for its preliminary assumption, the existence 
of separate social groups." 

"Above all, the weightiest instrument of men, Speech 
- which first makes the Man, and first makes possible 
the growth of our systematic Thought, has not been 
a casual creation of individuals or of the relation between 
parents and children, but has grown out of the common 
needs of equals, bound together by common interests 
and regulated intercourse. But even the invention of 
tools, such as the acquisition of Fire, the taming of the 
domestic Animals, the settlement in Residence, and so 
on, are possible only within a group ; or at least have 
meaning only so far as what has first and immediately 
benefited one, becomes the property of the whole com 
munity. That, in general, Manners, Law, Religion, and 
all such moral properties can have arisen only in such 
relations, needs no discussion. Thus the organization in 
such ties (Hordes, Stocks) which we meet in experience 
everywhere we get to know man is not merely just as 


old, but is far older than the Man ; it is the preliminary 
condition of the existence of the human race altogether." 
(Einleitung, 7, 8.) 

Even the child is the creature of the State Organism, 
not of the Family. "The generation and bringing up 
of the descendants lies much nearer the heart of the 
Social organism than of the individual man, for to him 
his own life is his chief interest, while to every social 
group the actual living members are wholly irrelevant 
in themselves, and only the momentary representatives 
of the chain of generations. . . . Hence the com 
pulsion to marriage, and the care for the birth and bring 
ing up of a posterity ; hence also the decision whether a 
new-born child shall live and become a member of the 
society is for the most part not left to choice of the parent, 
but falls to the kin or to some other recognized public 
authority" (p. 20). In short, the social Organism, in the 
recent views of history, is the cause, creator, and end of the 
Man, who exists only as a passing representative of it, 
without rights or functions except what it imposes. As 
an Organism society has always been peculiarly subject 
to degradation of Energy, and alike the historians and 
the physicists invariably stretch Kelvin s law over all 
organized matter whatever. Instead of being a mere 
convenience in treatment, the law is very rapidly be- 


coming a dogma of absolute Truth. As long as the theory 
of Degradation, as of Evolution, was only one of 
the convenient tools of science, the sociologist had no 
just cause for complaint. Every science, and mathe 
matics first of all, uses what tools it likes. The Pro 
fessor of Physics is not teaching Ethics ; he is training 
young men to handle concrete energy in one or more of 
its many forms, and he has no choice but to use the most 
convenient formulas. Unfortunately the formula most 
convenient for him is not at all convenient for his col 
leagues in sociology and history, without pressing the 
inquiry further, into more intimate branches of practice 
like medicine, jurisprudence, and politics. If the entire 
universe, in every variety of active energy, organic and 
inorganic, human or divine, is to be treated as clock 
work that is running down, society can hardly go on ignor 
ing the fact forever. Hitherto it has often happened 
that two systems of education, like the Scholastic and 
Baconian, could exist side by side for centuries, as 
they exist still, in adjoining schools and universities, 
by no more scientific device than that of shutting their 
eyes to each other ; but the universe has been terribly 
narrowed by thermodynamics. Already History and 
Sociology gasp for breath. 

The department of history needs to concert with the 


departments of biology, sociology, and psychology some 
common formula or figure to serve their students as a 
working model for their study of the vital energies ; and 
this figure must be brought into accord with the figures 
or formulas used by the department of physics and me 
chanics to serve their students as models for the working 
of physico-chemical and mechanical energies. Without 
the adhesion of physicists, the model would cause greater 
scandal than though the contradictions were silently 
ignored as now ; but the biologists, or, at least, the 
branches of science concerned with humanity, will 
find great difficulty in agreeing on any formula which 
does not require from physics the abandonment, in part, 
of the second law of thermodynamics. The mere formal 
exception of Reason from the express operation of the 
law, as a matter of teaching in the workshop, is not 
enough. Either the law must be abandoned in respect 
to Vital Energy altogether, or Vital Energy must abandon 
Reason altogether as one of its forms, and return to the 
old dilemma of Descartes. 

Meanwhile nothing prevents each instructor from aim 
ing to unite with each of his colleagues in some sort of 
approach to a common understanding about the first 
principle of instruction ; if each University solves the 
problem to its own satisfaction, the problem is, in so far, 


solved for the whole ; and nothing need hamper the effort 
of the Universities to carry the process further, if it prom 
ises advantage. If the physicists and physico-chemists 
can at last find their way to an arrangement that would 
satisfy the sociologists and historians, the problem would 
be wholly solved. Such a complete solution seems not 
impossible ; but at present, for the moment, as the 
stream runs, it also seems, to an impartial bystander, 
to call for the aid of another Newton. 




IN 1876-1878 Willard Gibbs, Professor of Mathematical 
Physics at Yale, published in the Transactions of 
the Connecticut Academy his famous memoir on the 
<k Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances," containing 
the short chapter "On Existent Phases of Matter," 
which, in the hands of the Dutch chemists, became, 
some ten years afterwards, a means of greatly extending 
the science of Static Chemistry. Although the name of 
Willard Gibbs is probably to-day the highest in scientific 
fame of all Americans since Benjamin Franklin, his Rule 
of Phases defies translation into literary language. The 
mathematical formulas in which he hid it were with 
difficulty intelligible to the chemists themselves, and are 
quite unintelligible to an unmathematical public, while 
the sense in which the word Phase was used, confused 
its meaning to a degree that alters its values, and reduces 
it to a chemical relation. Willard Gibbs helped to change 
the face of science, but his Phase was not the Phase of 

As he used it, the word meant Equilibrium, which is 
in fact the ordinary sense attached to it, but his equilib- 



rium was limited to a few component parts. Ice, water, 
and water-vapor were three phases of a single substance, 
under different conditions of temperature and pressure ; 
but if another element were added, if one took sea- 
water, for instance, the number of phases was increased 
according to the nature of the components. The chemical 
phase thus became a distinct physical section of a solution, 
and as many sections existed as there were independent 

The common idea of phase is that of the solution itself, 
as when salt is dissolved in water. It is the whole equi 
librium or state of apparent rest. It means, perhaps, 
when used of movement, a variance of direction, but it 
seems not to have been so much employed to indicate a 
mere change in speed. Yet the word would apply in 
literature as well as it does in physical chemistry to the 
three stages of equilibrium : ice, water, and steam. 
Where only one component is concerned, the Rule of 
Phase is the same for chemistry as for general usage. A 
change of phase, in all cases, means a change of equilib 

Whether the equilibrium or phase is temporary or 
permanent, whether the change is rapid or slow, - 
whether the force at work for the purpose is a liquid 
solvent, or heat, or a physical attraction or repulsion, - 


the interest of the equilibrium lies in its relations, and the 
object of study is the behavior of each group under new 
relations. Chemists and physicists have turned their 
studies, for twenty or thirty years past, to these relations, 
and the various conditions of temperature, pressure, and 
volume have become more important than the atoms and 
molecules themselves, while new processes, osmosis, 
electrolysis, magnetic action, have made a new world 
that is slowly taking the place of the world as it existed 
fifty years ago ; though as yet the old curriculum of 
thought has been hardly touched by the change. 

The new field can be entered only by timid groping 
for its limits, and with certainty of constant error; 
but in order to enter it at all, one must begin by following 
the lines given by physical science. If the Rule of Phase 
is to serve for clue, the first analogy which imposes itself 
as the starting-point for experiment is the law of solutions, 
which seems to lie on the horizon of science as the latest 
and largest of possible generalizations. As science 
touches every material or immaterial substance, each in 
its turn dissolves, until the ether itself becomes an ocean 
of discontinuous particles. 

A solution is defined as a homogeneous mixture, which 
can pass through continuous variations of composition 
within the limits that define its existence. Solids, as 


we all know, may be dissolved, but we do not all realize 
that liquids and gases may also be dissolved, or that a 
change in composition must accompany a change of phase. 
As early as 1662, Isaac Voss, in his work, "De Lucis 
Natura," on the Nature of Light, defined Heat as "actus 
dissolvens corpora," the solvent of material bodies; 
and in 1870, the French chemist Rosenstiehl published a 
paper in the Comptes Rendues of the French Academy 
(vol. LXX) suggesting that any gas might be likened to a 
body dissolved in the medium of the universal solvent, 
the ether. Reversing the theory, the English and Dutch 
physicists have solidified every gas, including even helium. 
The solvent has been suggested or found for every form 
of matter, even the most subtle, until it trembles on the 
verge of the ether itself ; and a by-stander, who is in 
terested in watching the extension of this new synthesis, 
cannot help asking himself where it can find a limit. If 
every solid is soluble into a liquid, and every liquid into 
a gas, and every gas into corpuscles which vanish in an 
ocean of ether, if nothing remains of energy itself 
except potential motion in absolute space, where can 
science stop in the application of this fecund idea? 

Where it can stop is its own affair, dependent on its 
own will or convenience ; but where it must stop is a 
larger question that interests philosophy. There seems to 


be no reason for insisting that it must necessarily stop 
anywhere within the region of experience. Certainly it 
cannot stop with static electricity, which is itself more 
obviously a mere phase than water-vapor. The physicists 
cannot conceive it without conceiving something more 
universal behind or above it. The logic of former 
thought, in its classic simplicity, would have taken for 
granted that electricity must be capable of reduction to a 
solid, that it can be frozen, and that it must also 
be soluble in ether. One has learned to distrust logic, 
and to expect contradiction from nature, but we cannot 
easily prevent thought from behaving as though sequence 
were probable until the contrary becomes still more 
probable ; and the mind insists on asking what would 
happen if, in the absence of known limit, every substance 
that falls within human experience should be soluble 
successively in a more volatile substance, or under more 
volatile conditions. Supposing the mechanical theories of 
matter to be carried out as far as experience warrants, - 
supposing each centre of motion capable of solution in a less 
condensed motion, supposing every vortex-centre treated 
as a phase or stage of equilibrium which passes, more or 
less abruptly, into another phase, under changed condi 
tions ; must all motion merge at last into ultimate static 
energy existing only as potential force in absolute space? 


The reply of the physicist is very simple as a formula of 
experiment ; he can carry his theory no further than he can 
carry his experience; but how far does he, as a matter 
of fact, carry his habitual, ordinary experience? Time 
was when experiment stopped with matter perceptible to 
the senses ; but the chemist long ago lost sight of matter 
so limited. Vehemently resisting, he had been dragged 
into regions where supersensual forces alone had play. 
Very unwillingly, after fifty years of struggle, chemists 
had been forced to admit the existence of inconceivable and 
incredible substances, and their convulsive efforts to make 
these substances appear comprehensible had measured 
the strain on their thought. Static electricity already lay 
beyond the legitimate domain of sensual science, while 
beyond static electricity lay a vast supersensual ocean 
roughly called the ether which the physicists and chemists, 
on their old principles, were debarred from entering at all, 
and had to be dragged into, by Faraday and his school. 
Beyond the ether, again, lay a vast region, known to them 
as the only substance which they knew or could know - 
their own thought, which they positively refused to touch. 

Yet the physicists here, too, were helpless to escape the 
step, for where they refused to go as experimenters, they 
had to go as mathematicians. Without the higher 
mathematics they could no longer move, but with the 


higher mathematics, metaphysics began. There the 
restraints of physics did not exist. In the mathematical 
order, infinity became the invariable field of action, and 
not only did the mathematician deal habitually and 
directly with all sorts of infinities, but he also built up 
hyper-infinites, if he liked, or hyper-spaces, or infinite 
hierarchies of hyper-space. The true mathematician 
drew breath only in the hyper-space of Thought ; he 
could exist only by assuming that all phases of material 
motion merged in the last conceivable phase of immaterial 
motion pure mathematical thought. 

The physicist, in self-defence, though he may not 
deny, prefers to ignore this rigorous consequence of his 
own principles, as he refused for many years to admit the 
consequences of Faraday s experiments ; but at least he 
can surely rely upon this admission being the last he will 
ever be called upon to make. No phase of hyper-sub 
stance more subtle than thought can ever be conceived, 
since it could exist only as his own thought returning into 
itself. Possibly, in the inconceivable domains of abstrac 
tion, the ultimate substance may show other sides or 
extensions, but to man it can be known only as hyper- 
thought, the region of pure mathematics and meta 
physics, the last and universal solvent. 

There even mathematics must stop. Motion itself 


ended ; even thought became merely potential in this 
final solution. The hierarchy of phases was complete. 
Each phase, measured by its rapidity of vibration, 
arranged itself in the physical sequence familiar to 
physicists, such as that sketched by Stoney in his well- 
known memoirs of 1885, 1890, and 1899, and as reasonable 
as the solar spectrum. The hierarchy rose in an order 
more or less demonstrable, from : 

1. The Solids, among which the Rule of Phases offers 
ice as a convenient example of its first phase, because 
under a familiar change of temperature it passes instantly 
into its next phase : - 

2. The Fluid, or water, which by a further change 
of temperature transforms itself suddenly into the third 
phase : 

3. Vapor, or gas, which has laws and habits of its own 
forming the chief subject of chemical study upon the 
molecule and the atom. Thus far, each phase falls within 
the range of human sense, but the gases, under new condi 
tions, seem to resolve themselves into a fourth phase : 

4. The Electron or Electricity, which is not within the 
range of any sense except when set in motion. Another 
form of the same phase is Magnetism ; and some psy 
chologists have tried to bring animal consciousness or 
thought into relation with electro-magnetism, which 


would bo very convenient for scientific purposes. The 
most prolonged and painful effort of the greatest geniuses 
has not yet succeeded in uniting Electricity with Magnet 
ism, much less with Mind, but all show the strongest 
signs of a common origin in the next phase of un- 
differentiated energy or energies called : - 

5. The Ether, endowed with qualities which are not 
so much substantial or material as they are concepts 
of thought, self-contradictions in experience. Very 
slowly and unwillingly have the scientists yielded to the 
necessity of admitting that this form of potential energy 
- this undifferentiated substance supporting matter and 
mind alike exists, but it now forms the foundation of 
physics, and in it both mind and matter merge. Yet even 
this semi-sensual, semi-concrete, inconceivable complex of 
possibilities, the agent or home of infinite and instan 
taneous motion like gravitation, infinitely rigid and 
infinitely elastic at once, is solid and concrete com 
pared with its following phase : - 

(). Space, knowable only as a concept of extension, a 
thought, a mathematical field of speculation, and yet 
almost the only concrete certainty of man s consciousness. 
Space can be conceived as a phase of potential strains or 
disturbances of equilibrium, but whether studied as static 
substance or substance in motion, it must be endowed with 


an infinite possibility of strain. That which is infinitely 
formless must produce form. That which is only in 
telligible as a thought, must have a power of self-induction 
or disturbance that can generate motion. 

7. Finally, the last phase conceivable is that which 
lies beyond motion altogether as Hyper-space, knowable 
only as Hyper-thought, or pure mathematics, which, 
whether a subjective idea or an objective theme, is the 
only phase that man can certainly know and about which 
he can be sure. Whether he can know it from more than 
one side, or otherwise than as his own self-consciousness, 
or whether he can ever reach higher phases by developing 
higher powers, is a matter for mathematicians to decide ; 
but, even after reducing it to pure negation, it must still 
possess, in the abstractions of ultimate and infinite equi 
librium, the capacity for self-disturbance; it cannot be 
absolutely dead. 

The Rule of Phases lends itself to mathematical treat 
ment, and the rule of science which is best suited to 
mathematical treatment will always be favored by 
physicists, other merits being equal. Though the terms 
be as general as those of Willard Gibbs formulas, if they 
hold good for every canonical system they will be adopted. 
The Rule itself assumes the general fact, ascertained by 
experiment or arbitrarily taken as starting point, that 


every equilibrium, or phase, begins and ends with what is 
nailed a critical point, at which, under a given change of 
temperature or pressure, a mutation occurs into another 
phase ; arid that this passage from one to the other can al 
ways be expressed mathematically. The time required for 
establishing a new equilibrium varies with the nature or 
conditions of the substance, and is sometimes very long 
in the case of solids, but the formula does not vary. 

In chemistry the Rule of Phase applied only to material 
substances, but in physics no such restriction exists. 
Down to the moment of Hertz s experiments in 1887 and 
1888, common-sense vigorously rejected the idea that 
material substance could be reduced to immaterial 
energy, but this resistance had to be abandoned with the 
acceptance of magneto-electricity and ether, both of which 
were as immaterial as thought itself ; and the surrender 
became final with the discovery of radium, which brought 
the mutation of matter under the closest direct obser 
vation. Thenceforward nothing prevented the mathe 
matical physicist from assuming the existence of as many 
phases, and calculating the values of as many mutations, 
as he liked, up to the last thinkable stage of hyper- 
thought and hypcrspace which he knew as pure mathe 
matics, and in which all motion, all relation, and all form, 
were merged. 


The laws governing potential strains and stresses in an 
ideal equilibrium infinitely near perfection, or the volatility 
of an ideal substance infinitely near a perfect rest, or the 
possibilities of self-induction in an infinitely attenuated 
substance, may be left to mathematics for solution ; but 
the ether, with its equally contradictory qualities, is 
admitted to exist ; it is a real substance or series of 
substances, objective and undeniable as a granite rock. 
It is an equilibrium, a phase, with laws of its own which 
are not the laws of Newtonian mechanics ; it requires 
new methods, perhaps new mind ; but, as yet, the physi 
cist has found no reason to exclude it from the sequence 
of substances. The dividing line between static electricity 
and ether is hardly so sharp as that between any of the 
earlier phases, solid, fluid, gaseous, or electric. 

The physicist has been reluctantly coerced into this 
concession, and if he had been also a psychologist he 
would have been equally driven, under the old laws of 
association formerly known as logic, to admit that what 
he conceded to motion in its phase as matter, he must 
concede to motion in its form as mind. Without this 
extension, any new theory of the universe based on 
mechanics must be as ill-balanced as the old. Whatever 
dogmatic confidence the mechanist had professed in his 
mechanical theory of the universe, his own mind had 


always betrayed an uneasy protest against being omitted 
from its own mechanical creation. This neglect involved 
not only a total indifference to its claim to exist as a 
material or immaterial vibration, although such mere 
kinetic movement was granted in theory to every other 
substance it knew ; but it ignored also the higher claim, 
which was implied in its own definition, that it existed 
as the sole source of Direction, or Form, without which 
all mechanical systems must remain forever as chaotic as 
they show themselves in a thousand nebulae. The matter 
of Direction was more vital to science than all kinematics 
together. The question how order could have got into 
the universe at all was the chief object of human thought 
since thought existed ; and order, to use the expressive 
figure of Rudolph GoldscVid, was but Direction re 
garded as stationary, like a frozen waterfall. The sum of 
motion without direction is zero, as in the motion of a 
kinetic gas where only Clerk Maxwell s demon of Thought 
could create a value. Possibly, in the chances of infinite 
time and space, the law of probabilities might assert 
that, sooner or later, some volume of kinetic motion must 
end in the accident of Direction, but no such accident has 
yet affected the gases, or imposed a general law on the 
visible universe. Down to our day Vibration and 
Direction remain as different as Matter and Mind. Lines 


of force go on vibrating, rotating, moving in waves, up 
and down, forward and back, indifferent to control and 
pure waste of energy, forms of repulsion, until their 
motion becomes guided by motive, as an electric current 
is induced by a dynamo. 

History, so far as it recounts progress, deals only with 
such induction or direction, and therefore in history only 
the attractive or inductive mass, as Thought, helps to 
construct. Only attractive forces have a positive, perma 
nent value for the advance of society on the path it has 
actually pursued. The processes of History being irre 
versible, the action of Pressure can be exerted only in one 
direction, and therefore the variable called Pressure in 
physics has its equivalent in the Attraction, which, in the 
historical rule of phase, gives to human society its forward 
movement. Thus in the historical formula, Attraction is 
equivalent to Pressure, and takes its place. 

In physics, the second important variable is Tempera 
ture. Always a certain temperature must coincide with 
a certain pressure before the critical point of change in 
phase can be reached. In history, and possibly wherever 
the movement is one of translation in a medium, the 
Temperature is a result of acceleration, or its equivalent, 
and in the Rule of historical phase Acceleration takes its 


The third important variable in the physico-chemical 
phase is Volume, and it reappears in the historical phase 
unchanged. Under the Rule of Phase, therefore, man s 
Thought, considered as a single substance passing through 
a series of historical phases, is assumed to follow the 
analogy of water, and to pass from one phase to another 
through a series of critical points which are determined 
by the three factors Attraction, Acceleration, and Volume, 
for each change of equilibrium. Among the score of 
figures that might be used to illustrate the idea, that of a 
current is perhaps the nearest ; but whether the current 
be conceived as a fluid, a gas, or as electricity, whether 
it is drawn on by gravitation or induction, whether it 
be governed by the laws of astronomical or electric mass, 
- it must always be conceived as a solvent, acting like 
heat or electricity, and increasing in volume by the law 
of squares. 

This solvent, then, this ultimate motion which 
absorbs all other forms of motion is an ultimate equilib 
rium, this ethereal current of Thought, is conceived 
as existing, like ice on a mountain range, and trickling 
from every pore of rock, in innumerable rills, uniting 
always into larger channels, and always dissolving what 
ever it meets, until at last it reaches equilibrium in the 
ocean of ultimate solution. Historically the current can 


be watched for only a brief time, at most ten thousand 
years. Inferentially it can be divined for perhaps a 
hundred thousand. Geologically it can be followed back 
perhaps a hundred million years, but however long the 
time, the origin of consciousness is lost in the rocks before 
we can reach more than a fraction of its career. 

In this long and for our purposes infinite stretch 
of time, the substance called Thought has, like the 
substance called water or gas, passed through a variety 
of phases, or changes, or states of equilibrium, with which 
we are all, more or less, familiar. We live in a world of 
phases, so much more astonishing than the explosion of 
rockets, that we cannot, unless we are Gibbs or Watts, 
stop every moment to ask what becomes of the salt we 
put in our soup, or the water we boil in our teapot, and 
we are apt to remain stupidly stolid when a bulb bursts 
into a tulip, or a worm turns into a butterfly. No phase 
compares in wonder with the mere fact of our own existence, 
and this wonder has so completely exhausted the powers 
of Thought that mankind, except in a few laboratories, 
has ceased to wonder, or even to think. The Egyptians 
had infinite reason to bow down before a beetle ; we have 
as much reason as they, for we know no more about it ; 
but we have learned to accept our beetle Phase, and to 
recognize that everything, animate or inanimate, spiritual 


or material, exists in Phase ; that all is equilibrium more 
or less unstable, and that our whole vision is limited to 
the bare possibility of calculating in mathematical form 
the degree of a given instability. 

Thus results the plain assurance that the future of 
Thought, and therefore of History, lies in the hands of 
the physicists, and that the future historian must seek 
his education in the world of mathematical physics. 
Nothing can be expected from further study on the old 
lines. A new generation must be brought up to think by 
new methods, and if our historical department in the 
Universities cannot enter this next Phase, the physical 
department will have to assume the task alone. 

Meanwhile, though quite without the necessary educa 
tion, the historical inquirer or experimenter may be 
permitted to guess for a moment, merely for the amuse 
ment of guessing, what may perhaps turn out to be a 
possible term of the problem as the physicist will take 
it up. He may assume, as his starting-point, that 
Thought is a historical substance, analogous to an electric 
current, which has obeyed the laws, whatever they 
are, of Phase. The hypothesis is not extravagant. 
As a fact, we know only too well that our historical 
Thought has obeyed, and still obeys, some law of Inertia, 
since it has habitually and obstinately resisted deflection 


by new forces or motives ; we know even that it acts as 
though it felt friction from resistance, since it is constantly 
stopped by all sorts of obstacles ; we can apply to it, 
letter for letter, one of the capital laws of physical chem 
istry, that, where an equilibrium is subjected to conditions 
which tend to change, it reacts internally in ways that 
tend to resist the external constraint, and to preserve its 
established balance ; often it is visibly set in motion by 
sympathetic forces which act upon it as a magnet acts 
on soft iron, by induction ; the commonest school- 
history takes for granted that it has shown periods of 
unquestioned acceleration. If, then, society has in so 
many ways obeyed the ordinary laws of attraction and 
inertia, nothing can be more natural than to inquire 
whether it obeys them in all respects, and whether the 
rules that have been applied to fluids and gases in general, 
apply also to society as a current of Thought. Such a 
speculative inquiry is the source of almost all that is 
known of magnetism, electricity and ether, and all other 
possible immaterial substances, but in history the inquiry 
has the vast advantage that a Law of Phase has been long 
established for the stages of human thought. 

No student of history is so ignorant as not to know 
that fully fifty years before the chemists took up the 
study of Phases, Auguste Comte laid down in sufficiently 


precise terms a law of phase for history which received the 
warm adhesion of two authorities, the most eminent 
of that day, Emile Littr6 and John Stuart Mill. 
Nearly a hundred and fifty years before Willard Gibbs 
announced his mathematical formulas of phase to the 
physicists and chemists, Turgot stated the Rule of his 
torical Phase as clearly as Franklin stated the law of 
electricity. As far as concerns theory, we are not much 
further advanced now than in 1750, and know little better 
what electricity or thought is, as substance, than Franklin 
and Turgot knew it; but this failure to penetrate the 
ultimate synthesis of nature is no excuse for professors 
of history to abandon the field which is theirs by prior 
right, and still less can they plead their ignorance of the 
training in mathematics and physics which it was their 
duty to seek. The theory of history is a much easier 
study than the theory of light. 

It was about 1830 that Comte began to teach the law 
that the human mind, as studied in the current of human 
thought, had passed through three stages or phases : 
theological, metaphysical, and what he called positive as 
developed in his own teaching; and that this was the 
first principle of social dynamics. His critics tacitly 
accepted in principle the possibility of some such division, 
but they fell to disputing Comtc s succession of phases 


as though this were essential to the law. Comte s idea 
of applying the rule had nothing to do with the validity 
of the rule itself. Once it was admitted that human 
thought had passed through three known phases, - 
analogous to the chemical phases of solid, liquid, and 
gaseous, the standard of measurement which was to 
be applied might vary with every experimenter until the 
most convenient should be agreed upon. The commonest 
objection to Comte s rule, the objection that the three 
phases had always existed and still exist, together, - 
had still less to do with the validity of the law. The 
residuum of every distillate contains all the original 
elements in equilibrium with the whole series, if the 
process is not carried too far. The three phases always 
exist together in equilibrium ; but their limits on either 
side are fixed by changes of temperature and pressure, 
manifesting themselves in changes of Direction or Form. 
Discarding, then, as unessential, the divisions of his 
tory suggested by Comte, the physicist-historian would 
assume that a change of phase was to be recognized by 
a change of Form ; that is, by a change of Direction ; 
and that it was caused by Acceleration, and increase of 
Volume or Concentration. In this sense the experimenter 
is restricted rigidly to the search for changes of Direction 
or Form of thought, but has no concern in its acceleration 


except as one of the three variables to which he has to 
assign mathematical values in order to fix the critical 
point of change. The first step in experiment is to decide 
upon some particular and unquestioned change of Direc 
tion or Form in human thought. 

By common consent, one period of history has always 
been regarded, even by itself, as a Renaissance, and has 
boasted of its singular triumph in breaking the continuity 
of Thought. The exact date of this revolution varies 
within a margin of two hundred years or more, according 
as the student fancies the chief factor to have been the 
introduction of printing, the discovery of America, the 
invention of the telescope, the writings of Galileo, Des 
cartes, and Bacon, or the mechanical laws perfected by 
Newton, Huyghens, and the mathematicians as late as 
1700 ; but no one has ever doubted the fact of a distinct 
change in direction and form of thought during that 
period ; which furnishes the necessary starting-point for 
any experimental study of historical Phase. 

Any one who reads half a dozen pages of Descartes or 
Bacon sees that these great reformers expressly aimed at 
changing the Form of thought ; that they had no idea 
but to give it new direction, as Columbus and Galileo 
had expressly intended to affect direction in space ; and 
even had they all been unconscious of intent, the Church 


would have pointed it out to them, as it did with so 
much emphasis to Galileo in 1633. On this point there 
was no difference of opinion ; the change of direction in 
Thought was not a mere acceleration ; it was an angle 
or tangent so considerable that the Church in vain tried 
to ignore it. Galileo proved it, and the Church agreed 
with him on that point if on no other. Nothing could be 
more unanimously admitted than the change of direction 
between the thought of St. Augustine and that of Lord 

Since the Rule of historical Phase has got to rest on this 
admission, theory cannot venture on the next step unless 
this one is abundantly proved; but, in fact, no one as 
yet has ever doubted it. The moment was altogether 
the most vital that history ever recorded, and left the 
deepest impression on men s memory, but this popular 
impression hardly expresses its scientific value. As a 
change of phase it offered singular interest, because, in 
this case alone, the process could be followed as though 
it were electrolytic, and the path of each separate molecule 
were visible under the microscope. Any school-boy could 
plot on a sheet of paper in abscissae and ordinates the 
points through which the curve of thought passed, as 
fixed by the values of the men and their inventions or 
discoveries. History offers no other demonstration to 


compare with it, and the more because the curve shows 
plainly that the new lines of Force or Thought were 
induced lines, obeying the laws of mass, and not those of 
self-induction. On this obedience Lord Bacon dwelt with 
tireless persistence; "the true and legitimate object of 
science is only to endow human life with new inventions 
and forces"; but he defined the attractive power of this 
magnet as equal to the sum of nature s forces, so far as they 
could serve man s needs or wishes ; and he followed that 
attraction precisely as Columbus followed the attraction 
of a new world, or as Newton suffered the law of gravi 
tation on his mind as he did on his body. As each newly 
appropriated force increased the attraction between the 
sum of nature s forces and the volume of human mind, 
by the usual law of squares, the acceleration hurried 
society towards the critical point that marked the passage 
into a now phase as though it were heat impelling water 
to explode as steam. 

Only the electrolytic process permits us to watch such 
movements in physics and chemistry, and the change of 
phase in 1500-1 700 is marvellously electrolytic, but the 
more curious because we can even give names to the 
atoms or molecules that passed over to the positive or 
negative electrode, and can watch the accumulation of 
force which ended at last by deflecting the whole current 


of Thought. The maximum movement possible in the 
old channel was exceeded ; the acceleration and con 
centration, or volume, reached the point of sudden expan 
sion, and the new phase began. 

The history of the new phase has no direct relation 
with that which preceded it. The gap between theology 
and mathematics was so sharp in its rapid separation that 
history is much perplexed to maintain the connection. 
The earlier signs of the coming change, before 1500 - 
were mostly small additions to the commoner mechanical 
resources of society ; but when, after 1500, these additions 
assumed larger scope and higher aim, they still retained 
mechanical figure and form even in expanding the law 
of gravitation into astronomical space. If a direct 
connection between the two phases is more evident on 
one line than on another, it is in the curious point of view 
that society seemed to take of Newton s extension of the 
law of gravitation to include astronomical mass, which, 
for two hundred years, resembled an attribute of divinity, 
and grew into a mechanical theory of the universe amount 
ing to a religion. The connection of thought lay in the 
human reflection of itself in the universe ; yet the accelera 
tion of the seventeenth century, as compared with that 
of any previous age, was rapid, and that of the eighteenth 
was startling. The acceleration became even measurable, 


for it took the form of utilizing heat as force, through the 
steam-engine, and this addition of power was measurable 
in the coal output. Society followed the same lines of 
attraction with little change, down to 1840, when the 
new chemical energy of electricity began to deflect the 
thought of society again, and Faraday rivalled Newton 
in the vigor with which he marked out the path of changed 
attractions, but the purely mechanical theory of the 
universe typified by Newton and Dalton held its own, 
and reached its highest authority towards 1870, or about 
the time when the dynamo came into use. 

Throughout these three hundred years, and especially 
in the nineteenth century, the acceleration suggests at 
once the old, familiar law of squares. The curve re 
sembles that of the vaporization of water. The resem 
blance is too close to be disregarded, for nature loves the 
logarithm, and perpetually recurs to her inverse square. 
For convenience, if only as a momentary refuge, the 
physicist-historian will probably have to try the experi 
ment of taking the law of inverse squares as his standard 
of social acceleration for the nineteenth century, and 
consequently for the whole phase, which obliges him to 
accept it experimentally as a general law of history. 
Nature is rarely so simple as to act rigorously on the 
square, but History, like Mathematics, is obliged to assume 


that eccentricities more or less balance each other, so 
that something remains constant at last, and it is com 
pelled to approach its problems by means of some fiction, 




- some infinitesimal calculus, which may be left as 
general and undetermined as the formulas of our greatest 
master, Willard Gibbs, but which gives a hypothetical 
movement for an ideal substance that can be used for 


relation. Some experimental starting-point must always 
be assumed, and the mathematical historian will be at 
liberty to assume the most convenient, which is likely 
to be the rule of geometrical progression. 

Thus the first step towards a Rule of Phase for history 
may be conceived as possible. In fact the Phase may 
be taken as admitted by all society and every authority 
since the condemnation of Galileo in 1633; it is only the 
law, or rule, that the mathematician and physicist would 
aim at establishing. Supposing, then, that he were to 
begin by the Phase of 1600-1900, which he might call the 
Mechanical Phase, and supposing that he assumes for 
the whole of it the observed acceleration of the nineteenth 
century, the law of squares, his next step would lead him 
backward to the fur more difficult problem of fixing the 
limits of the Phase that preceded 1600. 

Here was the point which Auguste Comte and all other 
authorities have failed to agree upon. Although no one 
denies that at some moment between 1500 and 1700 
society passed from one form of thought to another, 
every one may reasonably hesitate to fix upon the upper 
limit to be put on the earlier. Comte felt the difficulty 
so strongly that he subdivided his scale into a fetish, 
polytheistic, monotheistic, and metaphysical series, before 
arriving at himself, or Positivism. Most historians 


would admit the change from polytheism to monotheism, 
about the year 500, between the establishment of Chris 
tianity and that of Mohammedanism as a distinct change 
in the form or direction of thought, and perhaps in truth 
society never performed a more remarkable feat than when 
it consciously unified its religious machinery as it had 
already concentrated its political and social organism. 
The concentration certainly marked an era ; whether it 
marked a change of Direction may be disputed. The 
physicist may prefer to regard it as a refusal to change 
direction ; an obedience to the physico-chemical law that 
when an equilibrium is subjected to conditions which 
tend towards change, it reacts internally in ways that 
tend to resist the external constraint ; and, in fact, the 
establishment of monotheism was regarded by the philoso 
phers even in its o\vn day rather as a reaction than an 
advance. No doubt the Mohammedan or the Christian 
felt the change of deity as the essence of religion ; but 
the mathematician might well think that the scope and 
nature of religion had little to do with the number of 
Gods. Religion is the recognition of unseen power which 
has control of man s destiny, and the power which man 
may, at different times or in different regions, recognize 
as controlling his destiny, in no way alters his attitude 
or the form of the thought. The physicist, who affects 


psychology, will regard religion as the self-projection of 
mind into nature in one direction, as science is the pro 
jection of mind into nature in another. Both are illusions, 
as the metaphysician conceives, and in neither case does 
or can the mind reach anything but a different 
reflection of its own features ; but in changing from poly 
theism to monotheism the mind merely concentrated 
the image ; it was an acceleration, not a direction that 
was changed. From first to last the fetish idea inhered 
in the thought ; the idea of an occult power to which 
obedience was due, a reflection of the human self from 
the unknown depths of nature was as innate in the Allah 
of Mohammed as in the fetish serpent which Moses made 
of brass. 

The reflection or projection of the mind in nature was 
the earliest and will no doubt be the last motive of man s 
mind, whether as religion or as science, and only the 
attraction will vary according to the value which the 
mind assigns to the image of the thing that moves it ; 
but the mere concentration of the image need not change 
the direction of movement, any more than the concen 
tration of converging paths into one single road need 
change the direction of travel or traffic. The direction 
of the social movement may be taken, for scientific pur 
poses, as unchanged from the beginning of history to the 


condemnation of Galileo which marked the conscious 
recognition of break in continuity ; but in that case the 
physicist-historian will probably find nowhere the means 
of drawing any clean line of division across the current of 
thought, even if he follows it back to the lowest known 
archaic race. Notoriously, during this enormously long 
Religious Phase, the critical point seemed to be touched 
again and again, by Greeks and Romans, in Athens, 
Alexandria, and Constantinople, long before it was finally 
passed in 1600 : but so also, in following the stream back 
wards to its source, the historian will probably find sugges 
tions of a critical point in ethnology long before such a 
critical point can be fixed. So far as he will see, man s 
thought began by projecting its own image, in this form, 
into the unknown of nature. Yet nothing in science 
is quite so firmly accepted as the fact that such a change 
of phase took place. Whether evolution was natural or 
supernatural, the leap of nature from the phase of instinct 
to the phase of thought was so immense as to impress 
itself on even* imagination. Xo one denies that it must 
have been relatively ancient ; few anthropologists 
would be content with less than a hundred thousand years ; 
and no one need be troubled by admitting that it may 
have been relatively sudden, like many other mutations, 
since all the intermediate steps have vanished, and the 


line of connection is obliterated. Yet the anthropoid ape 
remains to guide the physical historian, and, what is more 
convincing than the ape, the whole phase of instinct sur 
vives, not merely as a force in actual evidence, but as the 
foundation of the whole geological record. As an im 
material force, Instinct was so strong as to overcome ob 
stacles that Intellect has been helpless to affect. The 
bird, the beetle, the butterfly accomplished feats that 
still defy all the resources of human reason. The attrac 
tions that led instinct to pursue so many and such varied 
lines to such great distances, must have been intensely 
strong and indefinitely lasting. The quality that devel 
oped the eye and the wing of the bee and the condor has 
no known equivalent in man. The vast perspective of 
time opened by the most superficial study of this phase 
has always staggered belief ; but geology itself breaks off 
abruptly in the middle of the story, when already the 
fishes and crustaceans astonish by their modern airs. 

Yet the anthropoid ape is assumed to have potentially 
contained the future, as he actualh epitomized the past ; 
and to him, as to us, the phase to which he belonged was 
the last and briefest. Behind him and his so-called 
instinct or consciousness, stretched other phases of vege 
table and mechanical motion, more or less organic, - 
phases of semi-physical, semi-material, attractions and 


repulsions, that could have, in the concept, no possible 
limitation of time. Neither bee, nor monkey, nor man, 
could conceive a time when stones could not fall. The 
anthropoid ape could look back, as certainly as the most 
scientific modern historian, to a critical point at which 
his own phase must have begun, when the rudimentary 
forces that had developed in the vegetables had acquired a 
volume and complexity which could no longer be enclosed 
in rigid forms, and had expanded into freer movement. 
The ape might have predicted his own expansion into 
new force, for, long before the first man was sketched, the 
monkeys and their companions in instinct had peopled 
every continent, and civilized according to their 
standards the whole world. 

The problem to the anthropoid ape a hundred thousand 
years ago was the same as that addressed to the physicist- 
historian of 1900 : How long could he go on developing 
indefinite new phases in response to the occult attractions 
of an infinitely extended universe? What new direction 
could his genius take ? To him, the past was a miraculous 
development, and, to perfect himself, he needed only to 
swim like a fish and soar like a bird; but probably he 
felt no conscious need of mind. His phase had lasted 
unbroken for millions of years, and had produced an 
absolutely miraculous triumph of instinct. Had he 


been so far gifted as to foresee his next mutation, he would 
have possibly found in it only a few meagre pages, telling 
of impoverished life, at the end of his own enormous library 
of records, the bulk of which had been lost. Had he 
studied these past records, he would probably have 
admitted that thus far, by some mechanism totally in 
comprehensible, the series of animated beings had in some 
directions responded to nature s call, and had thrown out 
tentacles on many sides ; but he, as a creature of instinct, 
would have instinctively wished to develop in the old 
directions, he could have felt no conscious wish to 
become a mathematician. 

Thus the physicist-historian seems likely to be forced 
into admitting that an attractive force, like gravitation, 
drew these trickling rivulets of energy into new phases 
by an external influence which tended to concentrate 
and accelerate their motion by a law with which their 
supposed wishes or appetites had no conscious relation. 
At a certain point the electric corpuscle was obliged to 
become a gas, the gas a liquid, the liquid a solid. For 
material mass, only one law was known to hold good. 
Ice, water, and gas, all have weight ; they obey the law of 
astronomical mass; they are guided by the attraction of 
matter. If the current of Thought has shown obedience 
to the law of gravitation it is material, and its phases 
should be easily calculated. 


The physicist will, therefore, have to begin by trying 
the figure of the old Newtonian or Cartesian vortices, or 
gravitating group of heterogeneous substances moving in 
space as though in a closed receptacle. Any nebula or 
vortex-group would answer his purpose, say the great 
nebula of Orion, which he would conceive as containing 
potentially every possible phase of substance. Here the 
various local centres of attraction would tend to arrange 
the diffused elements like iron-filings round a magnet in 
a phase of motion which, if the entire equilibrium were 
perfect, would last forever ; but if, at any point, the 
equilibrium were disturbed, the whole volume would 
be set in new motion, until, under the rise in pressure and 
temperature, one phase after another must mechanically, 
and more and more suddenly, occur with the in 
creasing velocity of movement. 

That such sudden changes of phase do in fact occur 
is one of the articles of astronomical faith, but the reality 
of the fact has little to do with the convenience of the 
figure. The nebula is beyond human measurements. 
A simple figure is needed, and our solar system offers 
none. The nearest analogy would be that of a comet, 
not so much because it betrays marked phases, as because 
it resembles Thought in certain respects, since, in the 
first place, no one knows what it is, which is also true of 


Thought, and it seems in some cases to be immaterial, 
passing in a few hours from the cold of space to actual 
contact with the sun at a temperature some two thousand 
times that of incandescent iron, and so back to the cold 
of space, without apparent harm, while its tail sweeps 
round an inconceivable circle with almost the speed of 
thought, certainly the speed of light, and its body 
may show no nucleus at all. If not a Thought, the comet 
is a sort of brother of Thought, an early condensation of 
the ether itself, as the human mind may be another, 
traversing the infinite without origin or end, and attracted 
by a sudden object of curiosity that lies by chance near 
its path. If such elements are subject to the so-called 
law of gravitation, no good reason can exist for denying 
gravitation to the mind. 

Such a typical comet is that of 1668, or 1843, or New 
ton s comet of 1680 ; bodies which fall in a direct line, - 
itself a miracle, from space, for some hundreds of 
years, with an acceleration given by the simple formula 

k , where k is the constant of gravitation, M the mass 

of the sun and r the distance between the comet and the 
centre of the sun. If not deflected from its straight 
course by any of the planets, it penetrates at last within 
the orbit of Venus, and approaches the sun. 


At five o clock one winter morning in 1843, the comet 
began to show deflection at about two-and-a-half diameters 
distance from the sun ; at ten o clock it was abreast of 
the sun, and swung about at a right angle ; at half past 

ten it passed perihelion at a 
speed of about 350 miles a 
second ; and at noon, after 
having passed three hours in 
a temperature exceeding 5000 
Centigrade, it appeared un 
harmed on its return course, 
until at five o clock in the 
afternoon it was flying back to 
the space it came from, on the 
same straight line, parallel to 
that by which it came. 

Nothing in the behavior of 
1600-1700 Thought is more paradoxical 
1700-1800 than that of these planets, or 

h.-la.m.C^-v shows direction or purpose 


PASSAGE OF THE COMET OF 1843 more flagrantly, and it hap- 

February 27, twelve hours pcng that they f urnigh the 

only astronomical parallel for the calculated accelera 
tion of the last Phase of Thought. No other heavenly 
body shows the same sharp curve or excessive speed. 

3 p.m. - 
1 p.m. 
12 m 


\ 7a -"f 
\ ^ h 


Yet, if the calculated curve of deflection of Thought in 
1000-1900 were put on that of the planet, it would show 
that man s evolution had passed perihelion, and that his 
movement was already retrograde. To some minds, 
this objection might not seem fatal, and in fact another 
fifty years must elapse before the rate of human move 
ment would sensibly relax ; but another objection would 
be serious, if not for the theory, at least for the figure. 
The acceleration of the comet is much slower than that 
of society. The world did not double or treble its move 
ment between 1800 and 1900, but, measured by any 
standard known to science by horse-power, calories, 
volts, mass in any shape, the tension and vibration 
and volume and so-called progression of society were 
fully a thousand times greater in 1900 than in 1800; 
the force had doubled ten times over, and the speed, when 
measured by electrical standards as in telegraphy, ap 
proached infinity, and had annihilated both space and 
time. No law of material movement applied to it. 

Some such result was to be expected. Nature is not 
so simple as to obey only one law, or to apply necessarily 
a law of material mass to immaterial substance. The 
result proves only that the comet is material, and that 
thought is less material than the comet. The figure 
serves the physicist only to introduce the problem. If 


the laws of material mass do not help him, he will seek 
for a law of immaterial mass, and here he has, as yet, 
but one analogy to follow, that of electricity. If the 
comet, or the current of water, offers some suggestion 
for the current of human society, electricity offers one 
so much stronger that psychologists are apt instinctively 
to study the mind as a phase of electro-magnetism. 
Whether such a view is sound, or not, matters nothing 
to its convenience as a figure. Thought has always 
moved under the incumbrance of matter, like an electron 
in a solution, and, unless the conditions are extremely 
favorable, it does not move at all, as has happened in 
many solutions, as in China, or in some cases may 
become enfeebled and die out, without succession. Only 
by watching its motion on the enormous scale of his 
torical and geological or biological time can one see, - 
across great gulfs of ignorance, that the current has 
been constant as measured by its force and volume in 
the absorption of nature s resources, and that, within 
the last century, its acceleration has been far more rapid 
than before, more rapid than can be accounted for 
by the laws of material mass ; but only highly trained 
physicists could invent a model to represent such motion. 
The ignorant student can merely guess what the skilled 
experimenter would do ; he can only imagine an ideal case. 


This ideal case would offer to his imagination the figure 
of nature s power as an infinitely powerful dynamo, at 
tracting or inducing a current of human thought accord 
ing to the usual electric law of squares, that is to say,- 
that the average motion of one phase is the square of that 
which precedes it. The curve is thus : - 

Assuming that the change of phase began in 1500, and 
that the new Mechanical Phase dates in its finished form 
from Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes, with a certain lag 
in its announcement by them, say from 1600, the 
law of squares gives a curve like that of ice, water, and 
steam, running off to the infinite in almost straight lines 
at either end, like the comet, but at right angles. Sup 
posing a value in numbers of any sort, say 6, 36, 1296, 
- and assigning 1296 to the period 1600-1900, the pre 
ceding religious phase would have a value of only 36 as 
the average of many thousand years, representing there 
fore nearly a straight line, while the twentieth century 
would be represented by the square of 1296 or what is 
equivalent to a straight line to infinity. 

Reversing the curve to try the time-sequence by the 
same rule, the Mechanical Phase being represented by 
300 years, the Religious Phase would require not less 
than 90,000. Perhaps this result might not exactly 
suit a physicist s views, but if he accepts the sequence 


90,000 and 300 for these two phases in time, he arrives 
at some curious results for the future, and in calculating 
the period of the fourth, or electric phase, he must be 
prepared for extreme figures. 

No question in the series is so vital as that of fixing 
the limits of the Mechanical Phase. Assuming, as has 
been done, the year 1600 for its beginning, the question 
remains to decide the probable date of its close. Perhaps 
the physicist might regard it as already closed. He 
might say that the highest authority of the mechanical 
universe was reached about 1870, and that, just then, 
the invention of the dynamo turned society sharply into 
a new channel of electric thought as different from the 
mechanical as electric mass is different from astronomical 
mass. He might assert that Faraday, Clerk Maxwell, 
Hertz, Helmholz, and the whole electro-magnetic school, 
thought in terms quite unintelligible to the old chemists 
and mechanists. The average man, in 1850, could under 
stand what Davy or Darwin had to say; he could not 
understand what Clerk Maxwell meant. The later 
terms were not translatable into the earlier; even the 
mathematics became hyper-mathematical. Possibly a 
physicist might go so far as to hold that the most arduous 
intellectual effort ever made by man with a distinct 
consciousness of needing new mental powers, was made 


after 1870 in the general effort to acquire habits of electro 
magnetic thought, the familiar use of formulas carry 
ing indefinite self-contradiction into the conception of 
force. The physicist knows best his own difficulties, 
and perhaps to him the process of evolution may seem 
easy, but to the mere by-stander the gap between electric 
and astronomic mass seems greater than that between 
Descartes and St. Augustine, or Lord Bacon and Thomas 
Aquinas. The older ideas, though hostile, were in 
telligible ; the idea of electro-magnetic-ether is not. 

Thus it seems possible that another generation, trained 
after 1900 in the ideas and terms of electro-magnetism 
and radiant matter, may regard that date as marking 
the sharpest change of direction, taken at the highest 
rate of speed, ever effected by the human mind ; a change 
from the material to the immaterial, from the law of 
gravitation to the law of squares. The Phases were 
real : the change of direction was measured by the con 
sternation of physicists and chemists at the discovery 
of radium which was quite as notorious as the conster 
nation of the Church at the discovery of Galileo ; but it 
is the affair of science, not of historians, to give it a 
mathematical value. 

Should the physicist reject the division, and insist 
on the experience of another fifty or a hundred years, the 


consequence would still be trifling for the fourth term of 
the series. Supposing the Mechanical Phase to have 
lasted 300 years, from 1600 to 1900, the next or Electric 
Phase would have a life equal toVsOO, or about seventeen 
years and a half, when that is, in 1917 it would 
pass into another or Ethereal Phase, which, for half a 
century, science has been promising, and which would 
last only Vl7.5, or about four years, and bring Thought 
to the limit of its possibilities in the year 1921. It may 
well be ! Nothing whatever is beyond the range of possi 
bility; but even if the life of the previous phase, 1600- 
1900, were extended another hundred years, the difference 
to the last term of the series would be negligible. In that 
case, the Ethereal Phase would last till about 2025. 

The mere fact that society should think in terms of 
Ether or the higher mathematics might mean little or 
much. According to the Phase Rule, it lived from re 
mote ages in terms of fetish force, and passed from that 
into terms of mechanical force, which again led to terms 
of electric force, without fairly realizing what had hap 
pened except in slow social and political revolutions. 
Thought in terms of Ether means only Thought in terms 
of itself, or, in other words, pure Mathematics and Meta 
physics, a stage often reached by individuals. At the 
utmost it could mean only the subsidence of the current 


into an ocean of potential thought, or mere consciousness, 
which is also possible, like static electricity. The only 
consequence might be an indefinitely long stationary 
period, such as John Stuart Mill foresaw. In that case, 
the current would merely cease to flow. 

But if, in the prodigiously rapid vibration of its last 
phases, Thought should continue to act as the universal 
solvent which it is, and should reduce the forces of the 
molecule, the atom, and the electron to that costless 
servitude to which it has reduced the old elements of 
earth and air, fire and water ; if man should continue to 
set free the infinite forces of nature, and attain the con 
trol of cosmic forces on a cosmic scale, the consequences 
may be as surprising as the change of water to vapor, 
of the worm to the butterfly, of radium to electrons. At 
a given volume and velocity, the forces that are concen 
trated on his head must act. 

Such seem to be, more or less probably, the lines on 
which any physical theory of the universe would affect 
the study of history, according to the latest direction of 
physics. Comte s Phases adapt themselves easily to 
some such treatment, and nothing in philosophy or meta 
physics forbids it. The figure used for illustration is 
immaterial except so far as it limits the nature of the 
attractive force. In any case the theory will have to 


assume that the mind has always figured its motives as 
reflections of itself, and that this is as true in its con 
ception of electricity as in its instinctive imitation of a 
God. Always and everywhere the mind creates its own 
universe, and pursues its own phantoms ; but the force 
behind the image is always a reality, the attractions 
of occult power. If values can be given to these at 
tractions, a physical theory of history is a mere matter 
of physical formula, no more complicated than the 
formulas of Willard Gibbs or Clerk Maxwell ; but the 
task of framing the formula and assigning the values be 
longs to the physicist, not to the historian ; and if one 
such arrangement fails to accord with the facts, it is 
for him to try another, to assign new values to his vari 
ables, and to verify the results. The variables them 
selves can hardly suffer much change. 

If the physicist-historian is satisfied with neither of 
the known laws of mass, astronomical or electric, - 
and cannot arrange his variables in any combination that 
will conform with a phase-sequence, no resource seems 
to remain but that of waiting until his physical problems 
shall be solved, and he shall be able to explain what Force 
is. As yet he knows almost as little of material as of 
immaterial substance. He is as perplexed before the 
phenomena of Heat, Light, Magnetism, Electricity, Gravi- 


tation, Attraction, Repulsion, Pressure, and the whole 
schedule of names used to indicate unknown elements, 
as before the common, infinitely familiar fluctuations 
of his own Thought whose action is so astounding on the 
direction of his energies. Probably the solution of any 
one of the problems will give the solution for them all. 

WASHINGTON, January 1, 1909. 


Acceleration, movement of, 289. 

Adams, Brooks, inheritance, vii ; 
introduction, xi ; relations with 
Henry Adams, 1, KS ; "Emanci 
pation of Massachusetts," 87 ; 
"Law of Civilization and Decay," 
88 ; a forecast, 1 10. 

Adams, Charles Francis, 75. 

Adams, Charles Francis, Jr., 88. 

Adams family, 93. 

Adams, Henry, scientific methods, 
viii ; pose in "Education," 0, 103; 
"Theory of Phase," 7; aptitude 
for science, 35; "Law of Civili 
zation and Decay," 90, 99; letter 
to Am. Historical Assn., 90, 125; 
on arrested civilization, 98; on 
democracy s failure, 108; prediction 
of catastrophe, 111, 115; "Letter 
to Teachers of History," 112, 137; 
"Theory of Phase in History," 
113; l>elief in chaos, 122; "Ten 
dency of History," 125. 

Adams, John, 42, 93; on report on 
weights, 40. 

Adams, John Quincy, 113; faith in 
democracy, v, 77; faith in (lod, vi, 
20, 28, 33, 53, 70; a scientist, 9, 
52; tragedy of presidency, 10; 
internal improvements, 20, 25, 107 ; 
resolution, 21n ; resigns from Senate, 
21; Missouri question, 23; slavery, 
23, 29; letter to Upham, 24; 
scientific development of internal 
resources, 29; letter to J. Edwardw, 
29; reflections on belief, 33; ambi 
tions, 34 ; report on weights and 
measures, ix, 37 ; live-oak forest, 
52 ; elected to Congress, 55 ; Srnith- 
Hon Inquest, 58; on astronomy, 59; 
invited to Cincinnati, 03, journey, 
OS ; results of his influence, 73 ; 
on Jackson, 77; oivil service, 81; 
duration of Union, 107 ; belief in 
chaos, 122. 

Adams, Louisa Catherine, 75. 
Adams, Thomas Boylston, 47. 
Agassiz, Louis, on man, 177. 
Ancients, battle with moderns, 245. 
Animals, stunting of, 227. 
Anthropologists, on evolution, 170. 
Ape, anthropoid, 297. 
Archiac, Etienne Jules Adolphe Des- 

mier de Saint Simon, Vicomte d , 


Arndt, Friedrich, 170, 237. 
Association, American Historical, H. 

Adams letter as president, 125. 
Astronomy, J. Q. Adams on, 60; 

favored by government, 73 ; science 

of chaos, 122. 
Attraction, 280. 

Bache, Alexander Dallas, petition for 

observatories, 58. 
Bacon, Francis, 287 ; object of science, 


Bancroft, George, 147. 
Bankers, influence of, 120. 
Benton, Thomas Hart, 32, 33. 
Bergson, Henri, life as forces, 204. 

Bernouilli, , 190. 

Bigelow, Jacob, 75. 

Blandet, , 102, 164, 166. 

Branch, John, 53. 

Branca, Wilhelm, 176, 237. 

Brooks, Peter Chardon, 63. 

Brunhes, Bernhard, philosophy of 

history, 254, 258. 
Buckle, Henry Thomae, 120. 
Bumstead, Henry Andrews, consulted 

on scientific question, ix. 

Calhoun. John Caldwell, 44. 

Canals, projected by Washington, 14 ; 
travelling by, 68. 

Canning, Stratford, 41, 44. 

Capital of nation, Washington s con 
ception, 17. 

Carnot, Nicolaa L6onhard Sadi, 141. 




Catastrophe, law of energy, 148. 
Centre, economic, of world, 109. 
Chaos of democratic mediocrity, 115; 

astronomy, science of, 122. 
Child, creature of state, 260. 
Church and a science of history, 129, 

Ciamician, Giacomo, 196 ; vital energy 

and will, 193. 

Cincinnati, observatory, 63. 
Clausius, Rudolf Julius Emmanuel, 

140, 231. 
Clay, Henry, internal improvements, 

21 ; on civil service, 82 ; on the 

future, 83. 

Comet, 300; of 1843, 302. 
Communism, 130, 131. 
Competition, 78, 79, 85 ; war and, 116. 
Comte, Auguste, 284, 309 ; phases of 

the human mind, 285, 293. 
Consciousness defined, 204. 
Cope, Edward Drinker, on descent of 

man, 172. 

Corwin, Thomas, 70. 
Cotton, invention of gin, 22, 31. 
Currency, effect of debasement, 95. 

Dalton, John, 190. 

Dana, James Dwight, on stunting 

animal life, 227. 
Darwin, Charles, 218; influence of, 

126, 128; optimism, 130; law of 

evolution, 152, 159, 196 ; evolution 

of man, 170 ; on the eye, 226 ; 

energy in theory, 241. 
Dastre, Jules Albert Frank, on vital 

energy, 154. 
Davies, Charles, on report on weights, 


Davis, Charles Henry, 57. 
Decrepitude, social, signs of, 186. 
Dedham, Mass., meeting, 67. 
Degradation of energy, 83, 108 ; 

beginning of, 167 ; universities and, 

245; final word, 256. 
Degradationist, position of, 157. 
Democracy, degradation, 84, 104, 

108, 121 ; failure, 84. 
Descartes, Ren6, 262, 287 ; on man, 


Direction, in science, 279, 286. 
Dissipation of energy, law of, 141, 152, 

154, 179. 

Dollo, Louis, law of evolution, 170. 
Driesch, Hans, " Vitalismus," 147; 

on descent, 250. 
Drosera, 242. 
Durkheim, Emile, pessimism, 188. 

Earth, shrinkage of the, 165. 
Education, of waste or conservation, 

78 ; and hesitation, 186. 
Edwards, Justin, letter of J. Q. Adams, 

29, 80. 

Electricity, 274, 304. 
"Emancipation of Massachusetts," 88. 
Energy, degradation of, 83, 195 ; law 

of conservation, 140, 154, 209; 

law of dissipation, 141, 152, 154, 

179, 212; solar, 143, 148, 164; 

vital, 146, 149, 154, 193, 201, 221 ; 

social, 154; reason, 192; will, 193; 

thought, 207 ; economy of, 215 ; 

development of physical, 233. 
Entropy, law of, 142, 154, 209, 242, 251. 
Equilibrium, stable, 248, 258 ; denned, 

Ether, 275, 308; universal solvent, 

270 ; a phase, 278. 
Evolution, 210, 231 ; Darwin on, 

152; change in discussion, 170; 

Dollo s law, 170 ; upward, 244. 
Evolutionist, conquests of, 157 ; 

dilemma of, 214 ; compromise, 256. 
Experience, limit of, 272. 
Eye, complexity, 226. 

Family, dissolution of modern, 2, 119; 

origin and woman s share, 3. 
Faraday, Michael, 272, 273, 291. 
Faye, Herve Auguste Etienne Albans, 

on end of universe, 149. 
Flammarion, Camille, 184, 189; solar 

catastrophe, 182. 

Flechsig, Paul, brain and will, 200. 
Flemming, Sir Sandford, on report on 

weights, 50. 
Fluid, 274. 

Ford, Worthington Chauncey, x. 
Form, 286. 

Franklin, Benjamin, 285. 
Free-will, 232. 

Galileo Galilei, 132, 220, 287. 
Gallatin, Albert, report on internal 
improvements, 21. 



Can-, Elhert Henry. 116. 

Gaudry, Jean Albert, 167, 226, 227. 

Geologists, teaching, 166 ; on ice-cap, 


Ghent, peace commissioners, 118. 
GihiKui, Edward 245. 
Gibbs. Josiah Willard, 190, rule of 

phases, 237, 267. 
Gilliss, James Melville, 57. 
Gold-bugs. 96. 

Goldscheid, Rudolph, on direction, 279. 
Grasset, weakness of will, 253. 
Gray, Andrew, on death of all things, 

Great Britain and the United States, 


Grinnell, Joseph, 70. 
Guy de Lusiguan, faith in the cross, 54. 

Haeckel, Ernst Heinrich, evolution, 
153, 156; of man, 171. 

Hallock, William, on report on weights, 

Hartmann, Eduard von, 193, 196, 
204, 231 ; end of vital processes, 151. 

Harvard University, degree for Jack 
son, 77. 

Heat, Voss on, 270. 

Heer, Oswald, 166; arctic flora, 160. 

Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdi 
nand von, 140, 231. 

Hertz, Heinrich Rudolf, 277. 

History, tendency of, 126; science of, 
126, 148; teaching of, 97, 189, 210, 
261; science of vital energy, 207; 
and degradation, 243 ; Hrunhes on, 
255 ; rule of phase, 267 ; matter 
and processes, 280 ; and physics, 
283 ; mechanical phase, 293, 305 ; 
electrical phase, 308. 

Hopf, Ludwig, 174, 175, 176, 237. 

Huxley, Thomaa Henry, 178. 

Hyper-thought, 276. 

Inertia, 158. 

Intellect and instinct, 206. 

JackHon, Andrew, internal improve 
ments, 21, 27; in Florida, 22; 
principle of evil and a barbarian, 
77; abuse of office, 82. 

Jefferson, Thomas, on slavery, 18. 

Johnson. William Cost, 70. 

Joly, John, 239. 

Jones, Mrs. Mary C., advises on 
introduction, xii. 

Kelvin, Lord, see William Thomson. 
Kendall, Amos, 53. 
Kerner, Anton, on vital force, 147. 
Klaatsch, Hermann, on human teeth, 

174 ; primitive man, 240. 
Krainsky, N. 197. 

Labor, and a science of history, 129. 

Lalande, Andre, on thought, 203. 

Lands, public, a national trust, 27; 
dissipated, 31. 

Lapparent, Albert Auguste Cochon 
de, diminution of solar heat, 163, 
164; vegetation, 167, 168; on 
future of earth, 168, 184. 

Law of dissipation of energy, 141. 

Law, origin of municipal, 80; weak 
ness of human codes, 80. 

"Law of Civilization and Decay," 88, 

Le Bon, Gustavo, 254 ; on the crowd, 
252 ; enfeeblement of will, 253. 

Lemur, hypothetical, 172. 

Lex Poppaea. 1H7. 

Light-houses of the sky, 61. 

Littr6, fimile, 285. 

Live-oak, J. Q. Adams interest, 52. 

Loeb, Jacques, 197 ; will and mechan 
ical action, 198. 

London, financial supremacy, 110. 

Lunacy, increase of, 254. 

Lyell, ,S i> Charles, H. Adams and, 35 ; 
law of uniformity, 153, 159, 165. 

Macaulay, Thomas Babington, Lord, 
147, ISO. 245. 

McLean, John, and public office, 82. 

Man, an automaton, vii ; appearance 
of, 161, 167; limit of development, 
170; evolution, 171; end of series, 
177; and nature, 214, 229; waste 
fulness of, 216 ; no creative energy, 
230; primitive, 240; mental devel 
opment, 259. 

Mason, George, on slavery, 18. 

Massachusetts, Emancipation of, 88. 

Mathematics in physics, 272. 

Maury, Matthew Fontaine, 57. 

Maxwell, James Clerk, 279. 



Maysville road veto, 28. 

Metaphysics and physics, 196. 

Meyer, Eduard, man s mental develop 
ment, 259. 

Mill, John Stuart, 285, 309. 

Missouri question, J. Q. Adams on, 23. 

Mitchel, Ormsby McKnight, Cin 
cinnati observatory, 63. 

Mitchell, Thomas R., 21. 

Moderns, battle with ancients, 245. 

Monism, 240. 

"Mont St. Michel and Chartres," 2, 

Morgan, Jacques Jean Marie de, 184 ; 
on future of earth, 181. 

Motion, potential, in space, 270. 

Nebula of Orion, 300. 
Newcomb, Simon, 122. 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 290. 
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 196. 
Nourse, Joseph Everett, 59. 

Observatory, naval, 58 ; Adams name 

for, 61 ; Cincinnati, 63. 
Office, theory of public, 81. 
Orion, nebula of, 300. 
Ostwald, Wilhelm, 197, 236; on 

Kelvin s law, 142, 154; motion of 

mind, 198. 

Panmixia, 235. 

Paris, peace commissioners at, 117. 

Pasley, Sir Charles William, on report 

on weights, 48. 
Peirce, Benjamin, 5. 
Pendulum measurements, 41. 
Perfectability, human, 30, 53 ; Darwin 

on, 130, 159. 
Pessimism, 257. 
Phase, in History, Theory of, 114; 

rule of, 237, 267; defined, 267; 

hierarchy of, 274. 
Physicist, explanation of history, 213 ; 

use of energies, 243. 
Physics and metaphysics, 197. 
Poincare, Jules Henri, on monism, 240. 
Poincar6, Lucien, 242 ; anarchy in 

science, 239. 
Pressure, 280. 

Property, and a science of history, 129. 
Psychologists, on energy, 197. 
Psychology, physical, 234. 

Radium, 277, 307. 

Reason and tropism, 198 ; energy and, 

208, 229 ; accounting for, 242. 
Reformation, the, 111. 
Reinke, Johannes, 204, 239 ; on 

cnergctik, 258. 
Relics, fall into disfavor, 54. 
Religion, 294. 
Renaissance, 287. 
Rome, fall of, 89. 

Rosa, extinction of species, 170, 177. 
Rosenstiehl, A., 270. 
Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 128, 237 ; 

on the thinker, 203. 
Rush, Richard, 58 ; on report on 

weights, 45. 
Rutledge, John, on slavery, 19. 

St. Paul, on competition of flesh and 
spirit, 85, 105. 

Saporta, Louis Charles Joseph Gaston, 
Marquis de, 225; vegetation, 160, 

Schopenhauer, Arthur, 196; will as 
energy, 193. 

Science of history, 127 ; absolute, 129 ; 
chaos of, 239. 

Scudder, Horace Elisha, 87. 

Slavery, Washington s views, 18 ; 
Virginian opposition, 18 ; com 
promise in constitution, 19 ; sup 
pression of trade, 22, 28 ; extinction 
of, 29. 

Smith, Adam, 128. 

Smithson, James, bequest, 58. 

Socialism, 130. 

Society, decadence of, 247 ; an 
organism, 258. 

Sociologists, on society, 186, 188. 

Solids, 274. 

Solution, definition of, 269. 

Space, 275. 

State, and a science of history, 129. 

Stewart, Balfour, 232. 

Stoney, G. Johnstone, 274. 

Sun, condensation of, 164 ; economy 
of, 218. 

Swift, Jonathan, "Battle of the Books," 

Tait, Peter Guthrie, 145. 
Teeth, human, number of, 174. 
Temperature, 280. 



Tendency of history, 125. 

Thayer, Minot. f>7 . 

Thomson, Ilunna, on brain and will, 

Thomson, William, Lord Kelvin, 140, 

220, 231 ; dissipation of energy , 145, 

152, 1G2 ; on will, 201 ; exhaustion 

of oxygen, 216 ; confession of failure, 

Thought, nature of, 203, 273; as 

motion, 219; solvent of, 2S1 ; and 

phase, 2 S3 ; deflection curve, 303 ; 

acceleration, 303. 
Time, change of value, 222. 
Topinard, Paul, on human brain, 

175, 170; end of earth, 177; man 

and nature, 178. 

Trade union, principle of the, 121. 
Transformation, 191, 210, 241. 
Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques, 285. 
Tyndall, John, on solar energy, 143. 

Uniformity, law of, Lyell s, 153, 159, 

United States, civil war, object of, 

vii ; and Great Britain, 114. 
Unity, 241. 
Universities, Washington s, 17, 106; 

evolution upward, 244 ; degradation 

dogma, 245. 
Upham, Charles Weutworth, letter of 

J. Q. Adams, 24. 

Vapor, 274. 

Vegetation, changes in, 100; climax, 

Vibration, and direction, 279. 

Vienna, Congress of, 118. 

Virginia and slavery, 18, 22; and 

industry, 106. 
Vitalists, 146. 
Volume, 281. 

Voss, Isaac, defintion of heat, 270. 
Vulpian, Kdrue Felix Alfred, human 

brain, 175. 

Wade, Herlxirt T., on report on 

weights, 51. 
Wagner, Richard, 246. 
War, breeders of, SO, 110. 
Washington, George, constructive 

theory, 14, 106; capital city, 17; 

university, 17, 10(5; slavery, 18; 

personality, 84, 104 ; idea of govern 
ment, 105 ; body of, 107. 
Washington, John Augustine, 107. 
Washington city, poverty in scientific 

appliances, 42. 
Weights and measures, J. Q. Adams 

report, 37 ; metric system, 39. 
Whitney, Eli, cotton gin, 22, 31. 
Will as energy, 193, 199, 208; brain 

and, 200; eufeeblement of, 253. 
Winslow, Forbes, on degeneration, 

Woman and the family, 3 ; degradation 

of, 111; unsexing of, 118. 
Wundt, Wilhelm Max, 197. 
Wyeth, George, on slavery, 18. 

Zittcl, Karl Alfred vou, on descent, 

Printed in tiio United StateH of America.